Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Depressed individuals are assumed to distort perceptions of self, world and future systematically and negatively (Beck, 1967; 1974). These distortions are also presumed to be consistent across situations. To date, only single components of the triad have been directly investigated and there have been no comparisons of perceptions between situations. The validity of the cognitive distortion assumption and its generalizability across impersonal and interpersonal tasks were examined in this research.;To test the specificity of the cognitive theory of depression, the negative distortion assumption was studied in groups of depressed female psychiatric inpatients (n = 24), nondepressed female psychiatric inpatients (n = 24) and normal female medical patients (n = 24). Diagnostic criteria (Spitzer, Endicott and Robins, 1975) and Hamilton Rating Scale (HRS-D) scores equal to or greater than 32 were used to select the depressed group. Nondepressed subjects were selected if not diagnostically depressed, if they had no major systemic diseases producing depression-like symptoms, evidenced no formal thought disorder and had HRS-D scores equal to or less than 20. Subjects were matched in age. All subjects were administered the Beck Depression Inventory, the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale and the WAIS-Clarke Vocabulary Test as descriptive measures.;As hypothesized, depressed subjects made negative evaluations of self, world and future when compared to both nondepressed psychiatric and normal medical controls. Moreover, these negative evaluations represented distortions. That is, depressed subjects estimated their performance to be less adequate than it actually was. Actual performance in each of the impersonal and interpersonal tasks did not discriminate among the groups. There was also no effect of task on perceptions of performance. The success/failure strategy used in this research revealed that, although depressives endorse lower estimates overall, estimates of depressed and nondepressed subjects are affected equivalently by success or failure.;Beck's theory was generally supported in that the assumption of negatively distorted views of self, world and future specific to depression was confirmed. It is warranted to generalize these negative distortions across impersonal and interpersonal situations. It should be noted, however, that variability within the depressed group's responses suggest that depression is not a cognitively unified phenomenon and that cognitive variables may not be primary for all depressed women.



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