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Cause and Effect Determinants for Interpersonal Interactions: Testing a Portion of the Cognitive Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy Theory

25 July 2002


McCullough (2000) has developed an effective intervention (Cognitive-Behavioral Analysis System of Psychotherapy) for the treatment of chronic depression. This theory hypothesizes that individuals who suffer from chronic depression are developmentally impaired at determining causal connections in interpersonal interactions. The assumption within this theory is that nondepressed people can infer cause and effect relationships more effectively than chronically depressed people. However, there is little evidence regarding how well a nonclinical population is at identifying cause and effect relationships for themselves and for others. In the current study, hypothetical vignettes were presented to subjects that depicted other people's interpersonal interactions and personal stories that depicted the subject's own interactions. Subject's ratings of cause and effect from the interpersonal interactions depicted in vignettes and personal stories were coded. A base rate was obtained using frequency data to determine the overall ability of nonc1inical populations in determining causal connections between their own behavior and outcomes in interpersonal interactions. Comparisons were made between how well the sample determined causal connections from other people's interpersonal interactions and from their own. Finally, severity of depression was correlated with the subject's ratings of cause and effect. Results suggest that individuals performed greater than what would be expected by chance at determining causal inferences from interpersonal interactions. In particular, individuals were more accurate at determining what was happening in the interpersonal interactions depicted in the vignettes than they were for the personal stories. Compared to vignettes, subjects made more relevant interpretations in the personal stories of why desired outcomes were or were not obtained. There was no correlation seen between depression and subject' s ratings of cause and effect in interpersonal interactions. Application to McCullough's theory is considered.


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