Pessimistic attributional style: Is it specific to depression versus anxiety versus negative affect?

Alice G. Luten*, John A. Ralph, Susan Mineka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Two studies with college students explored the relationship of a pessimistic attributional style to positive and negative affect, as well as to depressed and anxious mood. Both studies revealed that a pessimistic attributional style was correlated with negative affect and depressed mood, but was unrelated to low levels of positive affect. The second study also showed a correlation with anxiety and that the association of pessimistic attributional style with emotional distress occurs for both depression-relevant (i.e, loss/failure) as well as anxiety-relevant (i.e. threatening) events. The second study also provided a longitudinal test of the diathesis-stress component of the reformulated helplessness theory. Results supported the hypothesis that pessimistic attributional style is a nonspecific diathesis for symptoms of both anxiety and depression. Implications for these findings for cognitive theories of depression are addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)703-719
Number of pages17
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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