Dysphoric deficits in interpersonal standards, self-efficacy, and social comparison

This study examined the role of personal standards, self-efficacy expectations, and social comparison in depression.  Nondepressed and dysphoric subjects estimated their own interpersonal standards and efficacy, as well as the standards and efficacy of their peers.  Contrary to common theory, dysphoric subjects set lower – not higher – goals than did nondepressed subjects.  As expected, nondepressed subjects made more favorable social comparisons than did dysphoric subjects.  Nondepressed subjects made more positive judgments for themselves than for their peers, whereas dysphoric subjects made similar judgments for self and other.  Results are discussed in terms of their implications for the role of goals and social comparison processes in depression.  In particular, it is suggested that, in response to a gap between standards and performance expectations, one might raise expectations, lower standards, or maintain both standards and expectations.  The latter two are likely to be associated with depression.  Not only are evaluations made in absolute terms, but they are also made by social comparison, especially when evaluation concerns one’s goals.  This study suggests that dysphoric people no longer judge that they are superior to their peers, which might hinder them in mobilizing their efforts.