Studies by Psychologists: Alloy and Abramson

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Studies by psychologists Alloy and Abramson (1979) and Dobson and Franche (1989) suggested that depressed people appear to have a more realistic perception of their importance, reputation, locus of control, and abilities than those who are not depressed.

The popular claim: is that depressed people believe false ideas about themselves and others. In other words, they are self-deceived and out of touch with reality. This kind of self-deceptive thinking is alleged to be a factor distinguishing depressed people from "normal" people. However scientific research leads to the opposite conclusion. That is, depressives seem to have a better grasp of reality than the "normal psychiatrists" treating them.

The Study: Lauren Alloy (Temple University) and Lyn Abramson (University of Wisconsin) designed an experiment in which one of the investigators secretly manipulated the outcome of a series of games. Both depressed and non-depressed subjects took part in these fixed games.

The Results: Non-depressed subjects overestimated the degree to which they had personally influenced the outcome when the game was rigged so that they did well, and underestimated their own contribution to the outcome when they did poorly. Turning to the depressed subjects, Alloy and Abramson found that depressed individuals assessed both situations far more realistically. The rather starting conclusion is that depressives may suffer from a deficit in self-deception. (Similar results were obtained by the distinguished behavioral psychologist Peter Lewinson, who found that depressed people are often able to judge others' impressions of them more accurately than non-depressed subjects are. Other similar research has found that high levels of self-deception are strongly correlated with conventional notions of mental health, and that subjects with so-called mental disorders evidence lower levels of self-deception than "normal people".)
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