Specifying the Nature of Social Skill Deficits Associated With Depression

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38 Scopus citations


According to the social skill deficit theory of depression, people who lack social skills are unable to obtain positive social reinforcement and thus become depressed. However, past research is replete with mixed findings on the social skill‐depression relationship. The present research was designed to overcome two prominent shortcomings in this research: poor operationalizations of social skill and constraining experimental procedures. In Study 1, 67 depressed and 74 nondepressed subjects engaged in an unstructured interaction with knowledge that they were being videotaped. In Study 2, 40 depressed and 61 nondepressed subjects were surreptitiously videotaped as they waited with another student for a study to begin. Analyses of subjects' social skill in these interactions indicated that depression is associated with a partial social skill deficit, most notable in terms of excessive social anxiety, low motivation to communicate with others, low social expressivity, and diminished behavioral involvement in Study 2. Partners of depressed subjects also showed low behavioral involvement in Study 2. However, on some aspects of social skill, depressed subjects appeared no different from their nondepressed peers. Depressed subjects' social skill was most deficient when they were given no instruction to interact and had no knowledge that they were being recorded.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-123
Number of pages35
JournalHuman Communication Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language


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