Anticipating undesired outcomes: The role of outcome certainty in the onset of depressive affect

Susan Andersen, Judith E. Lyon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We propose that the manner in which people anticipate future events influences the onset of depressive affect. In particular, we suggest that people are likely to experience depressive affect when they perceive highly aversive future events to be inevitable, i.e., 100 percent certain to occur. To test this hypothesis, we led participants to believe that the likelihood of experiencing an aversive event later in the experiment was either 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100%, while holding constant perceived uncontrollability. Results verified the notion that anticipating an undesired outcome that is inevitable produces significant increases in depressive affect. More specifically, a discrete increase in depression was observed when certainty reached 100% relative to anticipated likelihoods of 75, 50, 25, and 0%. Hence, depression did not simply increase linearly with increasingly high likelihoods that the aversive outcome would occur, but rather was a function of certainty. A similar but less pronounced pattern of findings was observed for increases in anxiety and hostility, indicating that these affects tended to co-occur with depressive affect. Overall, when a negative outcome is certain to occur, individuals may give up on the possibility of being spared the outcome and may become depressed as a result.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)428-443
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume23
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1987

Fingerprint

event
Depression
Hostility
anxiety
experiment
Anxiety
experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

Cite this

Anticipating undesired outcomes : The role of outcome certainty in the onset of depressive affect. / Andersen, Susan; Lyon, Judith E.

In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 5, 1987, p. 428-443.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{7ae62c99bab04917857f2ef688e0babb,
title = "Anticipating undesired outcomes: The role of outcome certainty in the onset of depressive affect",
abstract = "We propose that the manner in which people anticipate future events influences the onset of depressive affect. In particular, we suggest that people are likely to experience depressive affect when they perceive highly aversive future events to be inevitable, i.e., 100 percent certain to occur. To test this hypothesis, we led participants to believe that the likelihood of experiencing an aversive event later in the experiment was either 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100{\%}, while holding constant perceived uncontrollability. Results verified the notion that anticipating an undesired outcome that is inevitable produces significant increases in depressive affect. More specifically, a discrete increase in depression was observed when certainty reached 100{\%} relative to anticipated likelihoods of 75, 50, 25, and 0{\%}. Hence, depression did not simply increase linearly with increasingly high likelihoods that the aversive outcome would occur, but rather was a function of certainty. A similar but less pronounced pattern of findings was observed for increases in anxiety and hostility, indicating that these affects tended to co-occur with depressive affect. Overall, when a negative outcome is certain to occur, individuals may give up on the possibility of being spared the outcome and may become depressed as a result.",
author = "Susan Andersen and Lyon, {Judith E.}",
year = "1987",
doi = "10.1016/0022-1031(87)90039-4",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "23",
pages = "428--443",
journal = "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology",
issn = "0022-1031",
publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
number = "5",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Anticipating undesired outcomes

T2 - The role of outcome certainty in the onset of depressive affect

AU - Andersen, Susan

AU - Lyon, Judith E.

PY - 1987

Y1 - 1987

N2 - We propose that the manner in which people anticipate future events influences the onset of depressive affect. In particular, we suggest that people are likely to experience depressive affect when they perceive highly aversive future events to be inevitable, i.e., 100 percent certain to occur. To test this hypothesis, we led participants to believe that the likelihood of experiencing an aversive event later in the experiment was either 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100%, while holding constant perceived uncontrollability. Results verified the notion that anticipating an undesired outcome that is inevitable produces significant increases in depressive affect. More specifically, a discrete increase in depression was observed when certainty reached 100% relative to anticipated likelihoods of 75, 50, 25, and 0%. Hence, depression did not simply increase linearly with increasingly high likelihoods that the aversive outcome would occur, but rather was a function of certainty. A similar but less pronounced pattern of findings was observed for increases in anxiety and hostility, indicating that these affects tended to co-occur with depressive affect. Overall, when a negative outcome is certain to occur, individuals may give up on the possibility of being spared the outcome and may become depressed as a result.

AB - We propose that the manner in which people anticipate future events influences the onset of depressive affect. In particular, we suggest that people are likely to experience depressive affect when they perceive highly aversive future events to be inevitable, i.e., 100 percent certain to occur. To test this hypothesis, we led participants to believe that the likelihood of experiencing an aversive event later in the experiment was either 0, 25, 50, 75, or 100%, while holding constant perceived uncontrollability. Results verified the notion that anticipating an undesired outcome that is inevitable produces significant increases in depressive affect. More specifically, a discrete increase in depression was observed when certainty reached 100% relative to anticipated likelihoods of 75, 50, 25, and 0%. Hence, depression did not simply increase linearly with increasingly high likelihoods that the aversive outcome would occur, but rather was a function of certainty. A similar but less pronounced pattern of findings was observed for increases in anxiety and hostility, indicating that these affects tended to co-occur with depressive affect. Overall, when a negative outcome is certain to occur, individuals may give up on the possibility of being spared the outcome and may become depressed as a result.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=38249033910&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=38249033910&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1016/0022-1031(87)90039-4

DO - 10.1016/0022-1031(87)90039-4

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:38249033910

VL - 23

SP - 428

EP - 443

JO - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

JF - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

SN - 0022-1031

IS - 5

ER -