Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Cognitive approaches to mild depression have emphasized the role of negative self-evaluations, that is, beliefs that one is unworthy, deficient, or inadequate in some way, in both the etiology and the maintenance of this disorder. One predominant means of self-evaluation relates to social comparison, or the processes by which individuals compare themselves with other people. Thus, it was hypothesized that mildly depressed individuals may exhibit individual differences in social comparison that increase the likelihood of negative self-evaluations.;In Study 1, mildly depressed and nondepressed subjects were given the opportunity to engage in social comparison following good performances and poor performances on an intellectual task. Following poor performances, mildly depressed subjects exhibited heightened interest in social comparison, whereas nondepressives exhibited decreased interest. Such social comparison behavior resulted in a preponderance of unfavorable comparisons for mildly depressed individuals.;In Study 2, the relative status of those chosen as comparison targets was investigated. Results hinted that, whereas nondepressives preferred comparisons with worse-off others following poor performances and with better-off others following good performances, mildly depressed subjects preferred similar comparison targets, particularly when evaluative concerns were heightened.;In Study 3, subjects were given the opportunity to obtain background information about their comparison targets. Results indicated that nondepressives were relatively uninterested in such information following poor performances and more interested when they had done well. Mildly depressed individuals maintained relatively high interest in background information, regardless of their performance level.;The results of these studies suggest that mildly depressed individuals may experience heightened levels of self-uncertainty following negative personal outcomes, and may therefore be motivated to obtain accurate, rather than self-enhancing self-evaluative information. This may increase the likelihood of subsequent negative self-evaluations. In contrast, the social comparison behavior of nondepressives seemed to reflect more of a self-enhancement motivation. These findings were therefore interpreted with reference to the possible role of social comparison processes in the negative self-evaluations typical of mild depression.



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