Description: For years when teaching in introductory psychology classes on the topic of depression I would mention that some research had suggested that depressed individuals might have a more realistic view of their place and situation in the world. In other words, that to NOT be depressed meant that you might be a little bit delusional about how much agency or influence you had in the world around you. The work arose from withing a learned helplessness theoretic perspective on depression that suggested that the onset of depression could be linked ti consistent/persistent experiences suggesting that one had no control over or ability to predict events within their immediate world. The findings and related suggestions about depression took a rather deep place within discussions about depression. In the original study participants were divided into depressed and a non-depressed groups based on their self-reported symptoms and then were asked to spend some time trying to turn on and off a light using a switch that did not work all the time. At the end of their trials, they were asked what proportion of their “switch on” attempts were successful, or not. The main finding was that the depressed group were more realistic about how successful or unsuccessful their light switching efforts were. A recent study set out to try and replicate this original study and claimed to have failed to do so. Think about why that might have been (what might they have done differently) and about the implications of their results if it was a genuine failure of replication and then have a read through the article linked below that discusses this work.
Source: Sadder but Wiser? Maybe Not, Ellen Barry, The New York Times.
Date: October 18, 2022
You may have been aware of the general efforts being made within psychology to try and replicate many of the “classic” studies that have guided theory and practice over the years, and you may be aware of the many instances where the efforts at replication seemed to fail. Looking back to the original 1979 study and its impact on theories and interventions related to depression is seems clear that there have really not been any consistent efforts to figure out how to make depressed individuals more delusional about their situations in the world. Instead, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and its efforts to help depressed individuals move to more realistically adaptive ways of thinking about and acting within their worlds has become a data-backed standard theoretic approach to treatment for depression. Efforts at replication need to continue as do all efforts to check and expand and refine out psychological knowledge.
Questions for Discussion:
- What was it that the original found regarding “depressed” individuals’ views of their place and possible impacts upon their worlds?
- Was the attempt to replicate the original study a success, a failure, or something else?
- What do attempts to replicate earlier research do for the knowledge and theory base of psychology?
References (Read Further):
Alloy, L. B., & Abramson, L. Y. (1979). Judgment of contingency in depressed and nondepressed students: Sadder but wiser?. Journal of experimental psychology: General, 108(4), 441. Link
Dev, A. S., Moore, D. A., Johnson, S. L., & Garrett, K. T. (2022). Sadder≠ Wiser: Depressive Realism Is Not Robust to Replication. Collabra: Psychology, 8(1), 38529. Link
Moore, M. T., & Fresco, D. M. (2012). Depressive realism: A meta-analytic review. Clinical psychology review, 32(6), 496-509. Link
Open Science Collaboration. (2015). Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science. Science, 349(6251), aac4716. Link
Allan, L. G., Siegel, S., & Hannah, S. (2007). The sad truth about depressive realism. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(3), 482-495. Link
Miller, W. R., & Seligman, M. E. (1975). Depression and learned helplessness in man. Journal of abnormal psychology, 84(3), 228. Link
Prihadi, K., Hui, Y. L., Chua, M., & Chang, C. K. (2019). Cyber-Victimization and Perceived Depression: Serial Mediation of Self-Esteem and Learned-Helplessness. International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education, 8(4), 563-574. Link