, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 243-252

Depression, Confidence, and Decision: Evidence Against Depressive Realism

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This research examined how retrospective self-assessments of performance are affected by major depression. To test the validity of the depressive realism versus the selective processing hypotheses, aggregate posttest performance estimates (PTPEs) were obtained from clinically depressed patients and an age-matched comparison group across 4 decision tasks (object recognition, general knowledge, social judgment, and line-length judgment). As expected on the basis of previous findings, both groups were underconfident in their PTPEs, consistently underestimating the percentage of questions they had answered correctly. Contrary to depressive realism, and in partial support of the selective processing account, this underconfidence effect was not reduced but modestly exacerbated in the depressed patients. Further, whereas the PTPEs of the comparison group exceeded that expected on the basis of chance alone those of the depressed individuals did not. The results provide no support for the depressive realism account and suggest that negative biases contribute to metacognitive information processing in major depression.

The results reported in this paper are based on an extension of the MSc dissertation of Tiffany Fu, conducted in partial fulfillment of the degree of MSc in Research Methods in Psychology, University of Reading, 2003