Reading Between the Lines: The Lay Assessment of Subclinical Depression From Written Self-Descriptions

Aubrey J. Rodriguez, Shannon E. Holleran, Matthias R. Mehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigated how laypersons assess subclinical depression in others from 2 forms of written self-descriptions: personal diaries and online blogs. Fifty-seven target participants wrote essays describing their personality as they would in each context. Naïve judges then rated targets' depression from the 2 sets of self-descriptions. The judges achieved high and comparable levels of accuracy in the 2 self-descriptions by basing their impressions on linguistic cues indicative of depression-related emotional, cognitive, temporal, and social processes. Consistent with the idea that diaries particularly afford the disclosure of socially sensitive concerns whereas online blogs particularly afford the disclosure of socially acceptable concerns, several cues were indicative of depression only in the targets' diaries (sadness words, cognitive mechanism words, metaphysical references) or their online blogs (e.g., swear words, references to sleep). For most of these cues, judges were implicitly aware of their context-specific diagnosticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-598
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of personality
Volume78
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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