Depression, Confidence, and Decision: Evidence Against Depressive Realism

  • Tiffany Fu
  • Wilma KoutstaalEmail author
  • Cynthia H. Y. Fu
  • Lucia Poon
  • Anthony J. Cleare


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.

Key Words

depressive realism overconfidence underconfidence bias cognitive therapy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tiffany Fu
    • 1
  • Wilma Koutstaal
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Cynthia H. Y. Fu
    • 3
    • 4
  • Lucia Poon
    • 3
  • Anthony J. Cleare
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ReadingReadingUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolis
  3. 3.Affective Disorders UnitBethlem Royal HospitalBeckenhamUnited Kingdom
  4. 4.Institute of Psychiatry, King’s CollegeUniversity of LondonUnited Kingdom

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