Does Helplessness Cause Depression, Or Do Only Depressed People Become Helpless: Comment

Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date


Published In

Journal Of Experimental Psychology


Comments on the report by L. B. Alloy and L. Y. Abramson (see record 1981-02686-001) that depressed people are accurate at assessing response–outcome contingencies, whereas normal people display various distortions. It is argued that such a finding causes problems for a learned helplessness theory of depression, because it suggests that people can only detect some of the conditions necessary for producing helplessness after they are already depressed. The presumed causal relation between helplessness and depression may be strengthened if one assumes that helplessness prevents the development of active hypothesis-testing strategies that would otherwise produce biased assessments of contingency. (27 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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