The effects of a self-reward procedure on three depressive behaviors

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Ashley, Michael Allen, 1949-
Randolph, Christie C.
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The purpose of this study was to determine what effects a self-rewaard procedure involving the visualization of a pleasant scene had upon three operationally defined depressive behaviors. The three depressive behaviors were subjects' average self-confidence ratings, estimates of the rate of external reinforcement, and self-evaluations of their performance on a word association task. According to the self-reinforcement model of depression, a person becomes depressed as a result of a breakdown in any of the three stages, self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reward of the self-reinforcement process. In an attempt to examine the role of self-rewards in modifying the three depressive behaviors, a high rate of self-rewarding behavior was used within a design previously utilized by Wener and Rehm (1975). Subjects in the self-reward treatment were hypothesized to manifest a statistical increase in the three depressive behaviors when compared to subjects in the no self-reward treatment. Furthermore, depressed subjects were hypothesized to be statistically lower on the three depressive behaviors than nondepressed subjects. Finally, no statistical difference on the three depressive behaviors was hypothesized when males were compared to females.Students in undergraduate psychology and general education courses at a Midwestern university were solicited as subjects for the study. A total of 380 students volunteered for the study and completed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Based on their BDI scores, 96 subjects were selected with equal numbers of depressed and nondepressed, males and females. Just prior to the experimental procedure, subjects completed the BDI for a second time. Due to a shift in depression scores between initial and second presentations, 10 subjects were deleted from the study while another 11 subjects were deleted as a result of visualizing the self-rewarding scene when not requested thus changing the self-reward rate for the no self-reward treatment. The final sample size was 73.During the experimental procedure all subjects were asked to construct a pleasant scene based on their responses to the Reinforcement Survey Schedule while only the self-reward treatment subjects were requested to use the scene. After subjects gave a response to the cue word, they were asked how confident they were of their response. The other two dependent variables were obtained by asking, at the conclusion of the word association task, how well they felt they had done and how many times they were correct.Statistical processing of the data consisted of two, three-factor, non-orthogonal analyses of variance with the third factor (tester) blocked. All factors were reordered to determine their independent contribution. The first analysis eras multivariate in nature since both the average self-confidence rating and estimate of the rate of external reinforcement were used. The second analysis was univariate in nature since only self-evaluation was used. The use of a self-reward procedure involving the visualization of a pleasant scene was found to increase only subjects’ estimates of the rate of external reinforcement. No effects were found for average self-confidence ratings and self-evaluations. Thus, the self-reward procedure appeared to effect perceptions but not variables more centrally related to the self-concept, also, the self-reward procedure did not affect people in the same manner as external reinforcement. Depressed females had significantly lower self-confidence ratings and self-evaluations then nondepressed females, which lent support to the cognitive and self-reinforcement models of depression. Finally, as a result of a difference in depression levels between males and females, the validity of assuming males and females to express their depression in a similar manner was questioned.