A number of earlier studies of judgement in depression showed that although depressed individuals were clearly more negative than their non-depressed counterparts (e.g., DeMonbreun & Craighead, 1977), nevertheless they were often found to be more realistic or accurate on such tasks (Lewinsohn, Mischel, Chaplin, & Barton, 1980). The classic statement of this position was by Alloy and Abramson (1979) who, from a series of judgement of contingency studies with depressed and normal students, concluded that normal individuals show illusory biases of control over positive outcomes and no control over negative outcomes, whereas depressed individuals are more "even-handed" and show "depressive realism". In the Alloy and Abramson study, the participants' task was either to press or not press a button following which the outcome was the onset of a green light. However, the degree of contingency was varied across a number of studies that were carried out. Alloy and Abramson found that dysphoric students tended to be more accurate in judging the degree of control, in comparison to normal participants who overestimated control when the outcome was associated with success (winning money), but underestimated their degree of control for failure (losing money). As we noted earlier, Alloy and Abramson's depressive realism proposal contrasts directly with Beck's cognitive therapy in which the emphasis is on depressive distortions that are considered characteristic of depressive perception, reasoning, and judgement (see Chapter 4). However, there have subsequently been a number of restrictions placed on the original proposals for depressive realism; thus, Vazquez (1987) reported that the effect was dependent on a number of effects such as whether the information was self- or other-related. Dykman, Abramson, Alloy, and Hartlage (1989) have shown that whether a positive or negative bias is found will depend on the beliefs held by the individual.
There have been a wide range of other tasks designed to assess biases in judgement, expectancies, predictions, attributions, and perception of feedback. For example, Golin, Terrell, and Johnson (1977) found that in a dice game dysphoric students' predictions were more accurate when they rolled the dice themselves, but normal students were more accurate when the experimenter rolled the dice. Alloy and Ahrens (1987) found that dysphoric students were more negative about the likelihood of future academic success, whereas normal students overestimated their chances of success. Rozensky, Rehm, Pry, and Roth (1977) found that depressed patients rewarded themselves less and punished themselves more than did normal controls or non-depressed patients on a reinforcement task. However, the depressed patients were more accurate, whereas the other two groups over-rewarded themselves. Alloy and Abramson (1988) provide a useful overview of these and other related studies in an attempt to interpret them in relation to their depressive realism position. However, it is clear from these and from subsequent studies that the depressive realism and the cognitive distortion proposals reflect differing views of the proverbial elephant.
Power (1991) has suggested that a more sophisticated account of this literature needs to take account of a number of factors including the truth value and the valence of the information, together with the degree of positive or negative bias (see also Chapter 4). As shown in Figure 7.8, with a negative bias "depressive realism" should be found for True Negatives and False Positives whereas "depressive distortion" should be found for True Positives and False Negatives. In contrast, normal individuals showing a positive bias should be "realistic" for True Positives and False Negatives, but show "illusory biases" for True Negatives and False Positives. The empirical studies of Vazquez (1987) provide some support for these proposals. In addition, we have also modified a linear syllogism reasoning task, the results from which have shown the presence of positive reasoning biases in normal students and an absence of positive bias in dysphoric students (Quelhas & Power, 1991). There are also a range of social judgements that are affected by positive and negative moods, including the liking of other people, ratings of life satisfaction, partner choice, and optimism about the future (see Fiske & Taylor, 1991; Forgas, 1995).
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