, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 311-329

Distortion of perception and recall of positive and neutral feedback in depression

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This study evaluated three hypotheses derived from a cognitive behavioral model of depression. It was predicted that clinically depressed subjects, relative to psychopathological and normal controls, would underestimate their recall of high but not of low rates of externally controlled positive feedback. Although no specific prediction was made, data were also collected to determine whether such a cognitive distortion, if it occurred, took place at the point of stimulus perception or at some subsequent state of cognitive processing. Finally, it was predicted that the clinically depressed subjects, relative to the control subjects, would distort their perception of neutral feedback in a negative direction. The data indicated that the depressed subjects recalledhaving received less positive feedback than did the controls at the high but not the low rate of feedback. No between group differences were obtained for the subjects' immediate perception of positive or of neutral feedback. The implications of these data for the cognitive behavioral conceptualization and treatment of depression are discussed.

This research was partially supported by a grant to W.E.C. from College of Liberal Arts Central Fund for Research. Appreciation is expressed to Drs. Dale Harris, Michael Mahoney, J. J. Barnett, I. P. Unikel, Charles Robinson, Jerry McIntosh, and Olivia McBroom, M.S.W., for their assistance in the completion of this project.