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Title: 'He called his partner, hence he is needy' : a mixed-design investigation of spontaneous trait inferences and depression
Author: Boecking, Benjamin
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2013
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Background: Depressive disorders are highly prevalent and often take a persistent course. A considerable body of research shows that depression undermines interpersonal functioning and thereby increases stress, thus contributing to the maintenance of the disorder. However, relatively little is known about the cognitive mechanisms underlying this [interpersonal] stress generation. The present study investigated social perception in depression; in particular (1) whether depressed patients (DPs) are more prone to make spontaneous trait inferences (STIs; a tendency to spontaneously ascribe personality traits to others based on ambiguous information) than healthy controls (HCs); (2) whether the tendency to make such STIs predicts [interpersonal] daily hassles or, more broadly, depression severity; and (3) how this tendency relates to other vulnerability factors for depression such as overgeneral memory (OGM), childhood maltreatment, neuroticism and dysfunctional attitudes (DAs). Method: Twenty DPs and 20 age and gender matched HCs completed a novel experimental task to assess STIs, the autobiographical memory task to assess OGM, and a number of questionnaire measures assessing vulnerability factors. Participants then reported mood ratings and [interpersonal] daily hassles over a follow-up period of one week. Results: DPs showed significantly higher levels of STIs, OGM, an index of childhood maltreatment, neuroticism and dysfunctional attitudes. Within DPs, STIs correlated with indices of childhood maltreatment and depression severity. Across participants, but not within DPs, correlational analyses revealed significant positive relations between STIs and interpersonal daily hassles. Exploratory mediation analyses demonstrated that STIs accounted for relationships between childhood maltreatment / dysfunctional attitudes and concurrent depressive symptoms. OGM mediated the relationships between (1) vulnerability factors and depression severity, and (2) depression severity and daily hassles. Discussion: The findings suggest that DPs have an increased tendency to ascribe trait characteristics to other people which may, in parallel with depressive symptomatology, contribute to the elicitation of [interpersonal] daily hassles. Such difficulties are even more likely to occur in individuals who have suffered from childhood maltreatment. DPs may benefit from interventions aimed at elaborating person perception or reducing overgeneral memory.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available