Who is Miserable -- and Why
Most depressed people have negative thought patterns which can contribute to the onset and maintenance of a depressive episode.
Their pessimistic outlook leads them to magnify bad experiences and minimize good ones.
Are depressed people unrealistically negative ?
Studies indicate that depressed individuals have more realistic views than non-depressed people.
Depressive Realism -- Depressed individuals are much less likely than normal individuals to exhibit reality distorting, self-serving biases.
In fact, Depressed individuals:
Will not exaggerate how competent and well liked they are.
Remember positive and negative experiences equally.
Accept responsibility for both successes and failures.
Are less vulnerable to the illusion of control.
Have realistic views of the future.
The depressive attributional style:
Depressed people frequently have a depressive attributional style which over exaggerates negative consequences, places blame solely on the individual, and believe a failure in one area of competence can affect behavior in other areas.
Depression is linked with a negative, pessimistic way of explaining and interpreting failures.
Do negative thoughts cause depression, or does depression cause a person to think negatively?
Moods can influence our thinking:
When we feel happy, we think happy and optimistic thoughts.
Lewinsohn & Rosenbaum (1987): Examined what terms depressed individuals used to describe their parents.
Currently depressed individuals described their parents in negative terms.
Formerly depressed individuals describe their parents in positive terms,
just like people who have never suffered from depression.
Forgas et al (1984) -- Had students examine a videotaped conversation they participated in and rate their own positive and negative behaviors.
D.V. -- Percentage of positive and negative behaviors reported.
I.V. -- Whether they were put into a good or bad mood with hypnosis before watching the videotape.
People in a depressed mood also affect others behaviors toward them.
Depressed behavior can trigger hostility, anxiety, and even reciprocal depression in other.
Depressed people are at a higher risk for being divorced, fired, or socially isolated, actions which can help to maintain or worsen their depression.
Does negative thinking lead to depression ?
The level of negative thoughts have been positively correlated with the level of depression across a wide variety of studies (Barnett & Gotlib, 1988; Kuiper & Higgens, 1985).
Sacks and Bugental (1987) -- Examined how women’s mood would be affected by a conversation with a cold and unfriendly person. Women
who exhibit a depressive attributional style were more likely to become more depressed due to the awkward social situation, and behaved more antagonistically toward the next person they met after the unsuccessful conversation.
In real world settings, people at all age levels who have a depressive attributional style are more likely to become depressed following negative events. (Alloy & Clements, 1991)
If you believe that negative events are uncontrollable, the more likely you are to become depressed.
Some researchers see depression as a vicious cycle. Lewinsohn (1985).
Negative Event (money problems ) ------> Self-Blame
Self-Blame ------> Depressed mood
Depressed Mood ------> Other people reacting negatively toward you
------>More Negative Events
Seligman (1988) -- has hypothesized that the individualist culture of America contributes to depression, as the center of focus is the individual and individual accomplishments.
How can specific thought styles contribute to Loneliness?
Loneliness -- the feeling that ones social relationships are less numerous or less meaningful than desired.
Males are more likely than females to feel lonely when isolated from group interactions.
Females are more likely than males to feel lonely when deprived of close one-on-one relationships.
Chronically lonely people not only blame themselves for their perceived lack of social skills (depressive attributional style), but they also have a tendency to see other people in negative ways.
Lonely people tend to be self-conscious and have low self-esteem (Vaux, 1988).
Because lonely people tend to spend more time talking about themselves and seem less interested in their conversation partner than non-lonely people, people often come away from a conversation with a lonely person with a negative impression, contributing to the lonely individuals continued social isolation.
These findings that depressive attributional styles are linked to depression and loneliness has led to specific treatment methods.
Social skills training:
Explicitly teaching people how to behave in social situations can raise a persons self-efficacy, and reduce anxiety and self-monitoring which can hamper people in social situations.
Haemmerlie & Montgomery (1982, 1984, 1986) -- Demonstrated how social skills training can reduce shyness in college men.
They had men who rated themselves as being shy come into the lab and have 12 minute conversations with six different women two days in a row. Compared to men in a control condition, men who had the conversations reported less female related anxiety at both one and six weeks after the treatment ended. When the social skills of these individuals was increased by these sessions, the subsequent self-perceptions of their social skills increased to the point where they no longer felt as self-conscious and awkward around women.
Attributional Style Therapy
Attributional therapy is an attempt to change the depressive attributional style of an individual to a more adaptive optimistic attributional style.
First, people are educated concerning the advantages of an optimistic attributional style. Secondly, the therapists examine the attributions people make about their own behavior and point out the depressive elements in the persons attributions. Lastly, people are encouraged to keep a journal of their attributions and to specifically think about external factors which can contribute to their failures and internal factors which contribute to their successes.
One month following treatment, people had a more optimistic attributional style and had higher self-esteem. The more optimistic the attributional style they adopted, the less depressed they became.
Who is Happy, and Why
Historically, we have examined negative thoughts and emotions a great deal more than positive thoughts and emotions.
Happiness is not correlated with age or gender.
Although within America, there is little difference in happiness due to race or culture, across countries we do see significant differences. For example, people in Holland are four times as likely to describe themselves as happy than are people in Portugal.
Happiness is largely unrelated to wealth. People in very affluent countries are not much happier than people in impoverished countries.
Within a culture, people with great wealth report being only marginally happier than people without financial independence.
Four inner traits have been linked to happiness:
1. High self-esteem: Happy people like themselves.
2. Internal locus of control: Happy people typically feel in control.
3. Optimism: Hope-filled optimism predisposes happy people toward adventurous, upbeat living.
4. Extroversion: Outgoing people are more high-spirited and less anxious about social situations and interpersonal relationships.
Happiness and Religion
Compared to people who rate themselves as low in spiritual commitment, people who describe themselves as highly spiritual were twice as likely to respond "very happy" when asked.
People who attend church on a regular basis are less likely to abuse drugs, become divorced, or commit suicide.
Happiness and cognitive involvement
In general, people who are unemployed are less happy than people who work.
Work can provide both a sense of personal identity and an additional network of social support through our relationships with our coworkers.
When people are challenged by their work activities and feel they have sufficient skill to meet the challenges, people can become absorbed to the extent that they are unaware of the passage of time and things which are going on around them.
The flow model --Csikszentmihalyi & Csikszentmihalyi (1988)
Low Skills < > High Skills
Flow: absorption in an activity that is well-suited to one’s skills.