Implications of Ecological Validity for Cognitive Distortions of Depression

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Clinical




Core features of cognitive theories of depression suggest individuals vulnerable to developing depression hold negative perception biases and have distorted cognitions which contribute to and maintain depression. Depressive realism posits depressed individuals do not evidence cognitive biases, and instead perceive their world more accurately. Evidence to support depressive realism is mixed, and may vary across several parameters. The current study directly compared cognitive inferences on tasks of varying ecological validity across 79 undergraduates. On ecologically salient tasks, depressed participants were negatively biased while nondepressed participants were mostly unbiased. For tasks with less ecological validity, both depressed and nondepressed participants were negatively biased in their estimates of control. Findings of negative bias on less ecologically valid tasks do not provide support for depressive realism and instead partially support cognitive theories of depression. Implications of these findings for future research are discussed. ^