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Title: When even a full glass looks half empty: A study of processes that dampen positivity in the context of depression
Authors: Nelis, Sabine
Issue Date: 9-Sep-2014
Abstract: <p class="MsoNormal" style="margin-bottom:0cm;margin-bottom:.0001pt;text-align:justify;line-height:normal"><span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">It is not just a positive event in itself, but also how it is processed thatdetermines the outcome, for instance on positive affect. This is especially ofinterest in the context of depression. Depression is characterised by increasednegative affect, but also by reduced positive affect<span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-fareast-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-bidi-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-fareast-language:NL-BE" lang="EN-GB">. Our aimwas to investigate mechanisms that underlie reduced positive affect. We investigated several processing stylesthat are relevant for depression in this context. We examined their effect onpositive affect and their interrelations and associations with depressivesymptomatology. <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-bidi-font-weight:bold" lang="EN-GB">First, weexperimentally investigated the effect of adopting<b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"> a field versus observer perspective on<b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal"> positive affect when imagining positive events. P<span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-bidi-font-weight:bold" lang="EN-GB">ositive mental imagery <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-latin" lang="EN-GB">refers to mentally representing a positive event in the absence ofthe <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:Memento;color:black" lang="EN-GB">corresponding sensory input. Importantly, an event involving an individual him- or herself can beimagined from a field (first person) perspective or an observer (third person)perspective. <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;" lang="EN-GB">We <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">attempted to replicate findings of a previous study inwhich imagining positiveevents from a field perspective increased positive affect, whereas observerimagery decreased positive affect. Contrary to the original study, we did notfind a differential impact of imagery perspective on positive affect (Chapter1). In a second, conceptual, replication study again, we found no differentialimpact of field versus observer perspective on positive affect. Positive affectincreased after imagining positive scenarios regardless of the adoptedperspective (Chapter 2). Second, we investigated a typical downgrading responsestyle to positive affect, known as <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:AdvTN;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">dampening<span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:AdvTN;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US"> (e.g., ‘I did not deserve it’). We examineddampening as it relates to (a history of) depressionand depressive symptoms in a community sample, cross-sectionally andprospectively (Chapter 3). We found that higher levels of dampeningresponses to positive affect were related to higher concurrent levels ofdepressive symptoms. However, we found no strong support for a prospectiverelation. Results further indicated that not only currently but also formerlydepressed individuals engage in dysfunctional (dampening) strategies inresponse to positive affect. <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">Third, weinvestigated the relation between theuse of an observer perspective and depressivesymptoms (Chapter 4). <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:AdvTN;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">We found that dysphoricstudents retrieved more positive than negative memories from an observerperspective, whereas this was not the case for non-dysphorics. In addition, we examined a potentialmechanism behind the observer perspective. It has been suggested, for example,that making unfavourable evaluations is easier when adopting an observerperspective relative to a field perspective. However, this relation has neverbeen directly examined with positive events. We investigated incorrelational and experimental designs whether <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal">dampening is <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:AdvTN;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">associated with anincreased use of an observer perspective for positive memories(Chapter 4 and 5). <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">We found no experimentalevidence that dampening causes an increased use of observer imagery (Chapter5). Correlational evidence was mixed (Chapter 4, 5, 6). <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:AdvTN;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">Fourth, we investigatedthe affective impact of adopting a concrete/imagery-basedversus abstract/verbal processing stylefor positive memories (Chapter 6) and hypothetical positive scenarios (Chapter1). Abstract/verbal processing refers to verbal thoughts that are focused onunderstanding the meaning, causes and consequences of an event.<span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:AdvTN;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-GB"> In Chapter 6, we moreclosely examined this type of thinking about positive experiences. Weinvestigated whether its affective impact is <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal">moderated by trait dampening. In addition, based on previousresearch, we examined whether making(unfavourable) comparisons is one of the critical negative aspect ofabstract thinking. We found that concrete/imagery-based processing was, interms of positive affect, superior to abstract/verbal processing forhypothetical scenarios and a self-selected positive memory (Chapter 1 and 6),and superior to comparative thinking for a specific achievement (Chapter 6). Overall,a comparative/verbal thinking style did not change positive affect, but it hada more negative impact on change in positive affect with increasing levels ofdepressive symptoms. We found no evidence that trait dampening reduces theaffective impact of positive memory recall. <span style="font-size:10.0pt;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-ansi-language:EN-US" lang="EN-US">The six chapters are preceded by a general introduction and followed by ageneral discussion. In the generalintroduction, we provide a background, definitions of the main variables ofinterest and the related research aims. In the <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal">general discussion, we present an overview and discussion of allchapters, including limitations, future directions and clinical implications. 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Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Centre for Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology

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