Depressive Realism: Wiser or Quieter?

Abstract

Depressive realism consists of the lower personal control over uncontrollable events perceived by depressed as compared to nondepressed individuals. In this article, we propose that the realism of depressed individuals is caused not by an increased accuracy in perception, but by their more comprehensive exposure to the actual environmental contingencies, which in turn is due to their more passive pattern of responding. To test this hypothesis, dysphoric and nondysphoric participants were exposed to an uncontrollable task and both their probability of responding and their judgment of control were assessed. As was expected, higher levels of depression correlated negatively with probability of responding and with the illusion of control. Implications for a therapy of depression are discussed.

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Correspondence to Helena Matute.

Additional information

Support for this research was provided by Dirección General de Investigación of the Spanish Government (Grant SEJ2007–63691/PSIC), Departamento de Educación, Universidades e Investigación of the Basque Government (Grant PI2008–9), and Dirección General de Investigación, Tecnología y Empresa of the Junta de Andalucía (Grant SEJ–406). Fernando Blanco was supported by fellowships BFI081.020.0 and BFI04.484 from Gobierno Vasco. He is now at the University of Leuven, Belgium. We thank Gumersinda Alonso, Esther Calvete, Francisco J. López, Rachel Msetfi, Dominique Muller, Robin Murphy, Serban C. Musca, Cristina Orgaz, Juan M. Rosas, and David Watson for their valuable comments and discussions on preliminary versions of this article.

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Blanco, F., Matute, H. & Vadillo, M.A. Depressive Realism: Wiser or Quieter?. Psychol Rec 59, 551–562 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03395681

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Key words

  • experiential avoidance
  • dysphoric mood
  • private events
  • functional response class
  • human suffering
  • mood induction
  • rumination