This study tested whether self-concept discrepancy theory (Higgins, 1983) provides a psychological model for distinguishing among different aspects of depression and anxiety. Nondepressed, slightly depressed, and moderately depressed undergraduates filled out a variety of standard questionnaires—the Beck Depression Inventory, Blatt Depressive Experiences Questionnaire, Emotions Questionnaire (measuring chronic rather than momentary affect), and Hopkins Symptom Checklist (Depression, Anxiety, Hostility, and Somatization subscales)—as well as the Selves Questionnaire, which was created to measure self-concept discrepancy. The Selves Questionnaire asked subjects to list up to 10 attributes associated with each of six different self-concepts. Each self-concept involved a particular domain of the self (i.e., the “actual” self, the “ideal” self, or the “ought” self) combined with a particular standpoint on that self (i.e., the subject's “own” standpoint or the standpoint of a significant “other”). To calculate the magnitude of discrepancy between any two self-concepts for a given subject, the attributes in each self-concept were compared to the attributes in the other self-concept, and the total number of attribute pairs that matched (i.e., synonyms) was subtracted from the total number of attribute pairs that mismatched (i.e., antonyms). Zero-order and partial correlations were then performed to examine the relation between various emotional symptoms and the different kinds of actual-ideal discrepancies and actual-ought discrepancies. As predicted, actual-ideal discrepancy was generally associated with dejection-related emotions and symptoms, whereas actual-ought discrepancy was generally associated with agitation—related emotions and symptoms. The implications of these findings for previous theories and measures of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are discussed.
Social Cognition – Guilford Press
Published: Mar 1, 1985
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