Of current interest are the causal attributions offered by depressives for the good and bad events in their lives. One important attributional account of depression is the reformulated learned helplessness model, which proposes that depressive symptoms are associated with an attributional style in which uncontrollable bad events are attributed to internal (versus external), stable (versus unstable), and global (versus specific) causes. We describe the Attributional Style Questionnaire, which measures individual differences in the use of these attributional dimensions. We report means, reliabilities, intercorrelations, and test-retest stabilities for a sample of 130 undergraduates. Evidence for the questionnaire's validity is discussed. The Attributional Style Questionnaire promises to be a reliable and valid instrument.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P.Helplessness and attributional style in depression. Paper presented at the Heidelberg Symposium on the Development of Metacognition, July 15, 1980.
Abramson, L. Y., & Sackeim, H. A. A paradox in depression: Uncontrollability and self-blame.Psychological Bulletin 1977,84 838–851.
Abramson, L. Y., Seligman, M. E. P., & Teasdale, J. D. Learned helplessness in humans: Critique and reformulation.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1978,87 49–74.
Beck, A. T.Depression: Clinical, experimental, and theoretical aspects. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
Beck, A. T.Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press, 1976.
Cronbach, L. J. Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests.Psychometrika 1951,16 297–334.
Elig, T. W., & Frieze, I. H. Measuring causal attributions for success and failure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1979,37 621–634.
Falbo, T., & Beck, R. C. Naive psychology and the attributional model of achievement.Journal of Personality 1979,47 185–195.
Goldstein, K. M., & Blackman, S.Cognitive style: Five approaches and research. New York: Wiley, 1978.
Golin, S., Sweeney, P. D., & Shaeffer, D. E. The causality of causal attributions in depression: A cross-lagged panel correlational analysis.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1981,90 14–22.
Gong-Guy, E., & Hammen, C. Causal perceptions of stressful events in depressed and nondepressed outpatients.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1980,89 662–669.
Harvey, D. M. Depression and attributional style: Interpretations of important personal events.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1981,90 134–142.
Hiroto, D. S., & Seligman, M. E. P. Generality of learned helplessness in man.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1975,31 311–327.
Ickes, W. J., & Leyden, M. A. Attributional styles. In J. H. Harvey, W. J. Ickes, & R. F. Kidd (Eds.),New directions in attribution research (Vol. 2). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum, 1978.
Janoff-Bulman, R. Characterological versus behavioral self-blame: Inquiries into depression and rape.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1979,37 1798–1809.
Klein, D. C., Fencil-Morse, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. Learned helplessness, depression, and the attribution of failure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1976,33 508–516.
Kuiper, N. A. Depression and causal attributions for success and failure.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1978,36 236–246.
Langer, E. J. Rethinking the role of thought in social interaction. In J. H. Harvey, W. J. Ickes, & R. F. Kidd (Eds.),New directions in attribution research (Vol. 2). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum, 1978.
Lefcourt, H. M. Locus of control for specific goals. In L. C. Perlmuter & R. A. Monty (Eds.),Choice and perceived control. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum, 1979.
Miller, I. W., & Norman, W. H. Effects of attributions for success on the alleviation of learned helplessness and depression.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1981,90 113–124.
Peirce, C. S.Philosophical writings of Peirce (J. Buchler, Ed.). New York: Dover, 1955.
Peterson, C. Uncontrollability and self-blame in depression: Investigation of the paradox in a college population.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1979,88 620–624.
Peterson, C., Schwartz, S. M., & Seligman, M. E. P. Self-blame and depressive symptoms.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1981,41 253–259.
Rizley, R. Depression and distortion in the attribution of causality.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1978,87 32–48.
Ross, L. The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings: Distortions in the attribution process. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.),Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10). New York: Academic Press, 1977.
Rotter, J. B. Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement.Psychological Monographs, 1966,80(1, Whole No. 609).
Ryle, G.The concept of mind. London: Hutchinson, 1949.
Seligman, M. E. P., Abramson, L. Y., Semmel, A., & von Baeyer, C. Depressive attributional style.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1979,88 242–247.
Streufert, S., & Streufert, S. C.Behavior in the complex environment. Washington, D.C.: Winston, 1978.
Weiner, B.Achievement motivation and attribution theory. Morristown, New Jersey: General Learning Press, 1974.
Weiner, B. A cognitive (attribution)-emotion-action model of motivated behavior: An analysis of judgments of help-giving.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1980,39 186–200.
Wortman, C. B., & Dintzer, L. Is an attributional analysis of the learned helplessness phenomenon viable?: A critique of the Abramson-Seligman-Teasdale reformulation.Journal of Abnormal Psychology 1978,87 75–90.
This work was supported by PHS grant MH-19604 to M. Seligman, NSF grant BNS76-22943 to the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant 463-80-0003 to C. von Baeyer. C. Peterson is now at Virgina Polytechnic Institute and State University. A Semmel is at the University of Texas, and L. Abramson and G. Metalsky are at the University of Wisconsin.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Peterson, C., Semmel, A., von Baeyer, C. et al. The attributional Style Questionnaire. Cogn Ther Res 6, 287–299 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01173577
- Depressive Symptom
- Individual Difference
- Cognitive Psychology
- Current Interest