Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 83-98

First online:

The specificity of attributional style and expectations to positive and negative affectivity, depression, and anxiety

  • Anthony H. AhrensAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The American University
  • , David A. F. HaagaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The American University

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Ninety-four undergraduate subjects completed measures of trait positive and negative affectivity, anxiety, depression, optimism, hopelessness, and attributional style. After writing about negative events or hearing a tape describing a positive academic experience, they completed measures of state positive and negative affect and of self-efficacy expectancies. Positive affectivity was associated with attributional style for positive, but not negative, events. Negative affectivity was associated with attributional style for negative, but not positive, events. Negative event attributional style was specifically associated with anxiety; expectancies and positive event attributional style with depression. Attributional style predicted state positive affect following completion of negative essays, but not negative affect, nor either affect following the positive tape. Effects of attributional style on affect were partially independent of expectations. Results are discussed in terms of the importance of distinguishing between processes related to positive and negative affect in order to distinguish anxiety from depression.

Key words

attributional style expectations depression anxiety affect cognitive specificity