Browsing Electronic Theses & Dissertations by Author "Baum, Spencer"
Perception of Control: Accuracy among Optimists and Pessimists on Noncontingency and Contingengy TasksBaum, Spencer (2011-03-15)The learned helplessness theory asserts that depressed individuals unrealistically believe that they have little to no control over aversive outcomes in their lives. Paradoxically, research on judgment of control has demonstrated that depressed individuals are not necessarily pessimistic, but rather more realistic than non-depressed individuals. Most of the research on depressive realism has investigated individual’s perceived control in situations in which they have no actual control. Few studies have investigated perception of control in situations where control is possible. Considering that many circumstances in life are controllable, it is important to examine how different personality variables contribute to accurate judgments of control in controllable situations. In addition, many studies have found a negative correlation between optimism and depression and the positive correlation between depression and pessimism, yet the research on control lacks information on optimistic and pessimistic individuals’ perception of control. Using a computerized judgment of control task, the current study examined perception of control in both no-control and control situations among participants classified as either optimistic or pessimistic and as dysphoric or non-dysphoric. Measures of optimism and pessimism used in this study were the Attributional Style Questionnaire and the Life Orientation Test-Revised and the Beck Depression Inventory-II was used to assess depressogenic symptoms. Participants were 88 undergraduate students. It was hypothesized that optimistic participants would exhibit illusory control in both contingent and non-contingent situations, while the pessimistic participants would provide accurate judgments of control in the no-control situation and underestimate control in the iv control situations. Additionally, it was hypothesized that dysphoric participants would provide accurate control judgments in the no-control situation and underestimate control in the control conditions. The results provided mixed support for the study’s hypotheses. Participants with optimistic explanatory styles provided accurate control judgments in the high contingency task and overestimated control in noncontingent and low contingent tasks. Participants with pessimistic explanatory styles underestimated control in the high contingency task and overestimated in noncontingent and low contingent tasks. Contrary to the depressive realism hypothesis, dysphoric participants did not provide accurate judgments of control regardless of the contingency situation. Dysphoric participants underestimated control in the high contingency situation and overestimated control in noncontingent and low contingent tasks.