Depression and Preference for Self-Focusing Stimuli After Success and Failure

Tom Pyszczynski, Jeff Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Depressed individuals, who tend to have large perceived-self/ideal-self discrepancies, have been shown to be particularly high in private self-consciousness. On the bases of this finding and of several converging theoretical perspectives, we hypothesized that depressives, unlike nondepressives, do not find self-focus more aversive after failure than after success, and thus either (a) show no differential preference for self-focusing stimuli after success versus after failure (weak hypothesis), or (b) prefer self-focusing stimuli after failure over self-focusing stimuli after success (strong hypothesis). Depressed and nondepressed college students succeeded or failed on a supposed test of verbal intelligence, and then worked on two sets of puzzles, one in the presence and one in the absence of a self-focusing stimulus (mirror). Whereas nondepressed subjects liked the mirror-associated puzzle more after success than after failure, depressed subjects did not; depressed subjects tended to like the mirror-associated puzzle more after failure than after success. Nondepressed subjects also exhibited a self-serving pattern of attributions, viewing the test as less valid and luck as more responsible for their performance after failure than after success; depressed subjects showed no such differences. In consistency with their failure to use defensive strategies, depressed subjects showed a decrease in self-esteem after failure; nondepressed subjects showed no such change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1066-1075
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1985

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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