Effect of Actor Depression on Observer Attributions: Existence and Impact of Negative Attributions Toward the Depressed

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attributions about success vs failure experiences of depressed vs nondepressed people, affective & behavioral reactions to request for psychological help, college students

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This experiment examined whether others explain the successes and failures of depressed versus nondepressed people differently and how these attributions are related to affective and behavioral reactions to a request for psychological help. Ss reported attributions about the success and failure experiences of hypothetical depressed and nondepressed people. Ss also responded to a hypothetical request for psychological help by indicating their attributions, affective reactions, willingness to help, and desire for future social contact. As hypothesized, Ss displayed more negative attributions toward depressed people. Replicating prior research (W. P. Sacco et al; see record 1986-12000-001), Ss responded to the depressive's request for help with mixed emotional and behavioral reactions. Path analyses revealed that attributions influenced affective reactions, which influenced willingness to help; but a more complex pattern emerged from the analysis of desire for future social contact. Results are discussed in terms of the interpersonal impact and possible causes of negative attributions about the experiences of depressed people.

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, v. 59, issue 3, p. 517-524