Goal fluency, pessimism and disengagement in depression
Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2016 Dickson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Despite the development of prominent theoretical models of goal motivation and its importance in daily life, research has rarely examined goal dysregulation processes in clinical depression. Here we aimed to investigate problematic aspects of goal regulation in clinically depressed adults, relative to controls. Depressed participants (n = 42) were recruited from two Improving Access to Psychological Therapy clinics in north-west England. Control participants (n = 51) were recruited from the same region. Participants generated personal approach goals (e.g., improve my marathon time) and avoidance goals (e.g., avoid getting upset over little things) and completed self-report measures of goal attainment likelihood and depressive symptoms. Participants also completed a measure of ease of disengagement from unattainable goals and re-engagement with new goals. Compared to controls, depressed participants reported fewer approach goals (but not more avoidance goals), rated their approach goal (rewarding) outcomes as less likely to happen and avoidance goal (threatening) outcomes as more likely to happen. Depressed participants also reported greater ease of disengagement from unattainable goals and more difficulty re-engaging with new goals than controls. Our findings extend current knowledge of the psychopathology of depression from a goal regulation perspective, suggesting that pessimism around goal pursuit accompanies fewer approach goal pursuits and a general tendency to disengage when difficulties are encountered.
The Doctoral Clinical Psychology programme at the University of Liverpool financially supported this research.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Public Library of Science via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 11, Iss. 11, e0166259.