Depression, Self-Focused Attention, and Expectancies for Positive and Negative Future Life Events for Self and Others

Tom Pyszczynski, Kathleen Holt, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

170 Scopus citations

Abstract

In two studies, we examined depressed and nondepressed persons' judgments of the probability of future positive and negative life events occurring to themselves and to others. Study 1 demonstrated that depressed subjects were generally less optimistic than their nondepressed counterparts: Although nondepressed subjects rated positive events as more likely to happen to themselves than negative events, depressed subjects did not. In addition, relative to nondepressed subjects, depressed subjects rated positive events as less likely to occur to themselves and more likely to occur to others and negative events as more likely to occur to both self and others. Study 2 investigated the role that differential levels of self-focused attention might play in mediating these differences. On the basis of prior findings that depressed persons generally engage in higher levels of self-focus than nondepressed persons do and the notion that self-focus activates one's self-schema, we hypothesized that inducing depressed subjects to focus externally would attenuate their pessimistic tendencies. Data from Study 2 supported the hypothesis that high levels of self-focus partially mediate depressive pessimism: Whereas self-focused depressed subjects were more pessimistic than nondepressed subjects, externally focused depressed subjects were not. The role of attentional focus in maintaining these and other depressive pessimistic tendencies was discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1001
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume52
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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