Contemporary Psychological Approaches to Depression

pp 71-86

Depressive Realism and Nondepressive Optimistic Illusions: The Role of the Self

  • Lauren B. AlloyAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Temple University
  • , Jeanne S. AlbrightAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Northwestern University
  • , Lyn Y. AbramsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Wisconsin
  • , Benjamin M. DykmanAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Wisconsin

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Clinicians and laypeople alike have known for a long time that people think negatively when they are depressed. Indeed, overly pessimistic thinking is typically viewed as a hallmark feature of depression. From the perspective of the major cognitive theories of depression (e.g., Abramson, Alloy, & Metalsky; 1988, this volume; Abramson, Metalsky & Alloy, 1988b; c; Alloy, Abramson, Metalsky & Hartlage, 1988; Beck, 1967; 1976; Beck, Rush, Shaw & Emery, 1979), such negative thinking is not only a core symptom of depression, but a cause of this disorder as well. While it is well known that depressives’ perceptions are negative in content, the more unique aspect of Beck’s cognitive model is that it hypothesizes that depressed individuals’ inferences about themselves and their experiences are unrealistically negative, extreme, and distorted. In contrast, normal, nondepressed individuals’ information processing is hypothesized to be realistic and free from cognitive biases (but see Beck, 1986, for a more recent revision of his views on nondepression).