Attributions and expectations: a confluence of vulnerabilities in mild depression in a college student population. Academic Article uri icon


  • The reformulated model of learned helplessness assumes that attributional style has its impact on depression in part through the intermediary effect of pessimistic or negative expectations about the occurrence of future outcomes. A possible logical next step in testing the model is to measure jointly attributions and expectations and to examine their combined (interactive) contributions. We used a short-term longitudinal design to examine whether attributional style works in combination with other factors, such as expectations, to predispose individuals to depression. Consistent with the initial theoretical analysis, the interaction of attributional style and expectations predicted depression on the Beck Depression Inventory 6 weeks later. We also found that attributional style predicted depression 6 weeks later in interaction with initial level of depression. These findings support our confluence hypothesis, which assumes that vulnerability factors can combine interactively and qualify the effects of attributional style. These interaction-effect findings have implications for currently popular cognitive theories of depression and for previous research on vulnerability to depression that has examined only the effects of single cognitive variables (such as attributional style) considered alone. Further study is also necessary to determine the nature of the overlap of the effects of expectation and initial level of depression.

published proceedings

  • J Pers Soc Psychol

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Riskind, J. H., Rholes, W. S., Brannon, A. M., & Burdick, C. A.

citation count

  • 41

complete list of authors

  • Riskind, JH||Rholes, WS||Brannon, AM||Burdick, CA

publication date

  • August 1987