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Dissertation

Cause and effect determinations for interpersonal interactions: Testing a portion of the cognitive behavioral analysis system of psychotherapy theory with chronically depressed subjects

26 July 2004

Abstract

McCullough (2000) hypothesizes that individuals who suffer from chronic depression are developmentally impaired at determining causal connections in interpersonal interactions; however, little is known about the veracity of this assumption. In the current study, chronically depressed subjects were presented with hypothetical vignettes depicting people interacting with each other and were asked to write personal stories that represented their own interactions with people. A base rate was obtained using frequency data to determine the overall ability of chronically depressed subjects to make causal connections. Comparisons were made between the accuracy and relevancy of causal connections for the hypothetical vignettes versus personal stories. Severity of depression was correlated with the subject's ratings of cause and effect. Finally, the results from the clinical sample were compared to a nonclinical sample (Deal, 2002). The results suggest that the subjects had difficulty determining who was responsible for the outcome of an interpersonal situation wh~n the situation was out of their realm of control and when they could control the situation but failed to. Subjects' comparisons between self and others showed that subjects had greater difficulty determining who was responsible for the outcome of an event when they were personally involved. Depression level and cause and effect did not appear to be correlated. When compared to the nondepressed sample, the depressed sample experienced greater difficulty determining who was responsible for the outcome of a situation they could not control. McCullough's (2000) theory and treatment directions are discussed.


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