Self-esteem reactivity to mood induction procedures: Investigating cognitive vulnerabilities within the diathesis-stress model of depression.

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Thomas, Cheryl,


Psychology, Clinical.




Although self-esteem reactivity plays a crucial role in the diathesis/stress model of depression, refinement of the interactions between variables included in this model is required. Specifically, the current research examined the extent to which cognitive-priming versus mood-state theory explains changes in participants' self-evaluations across multiple domains after exposure to experimental procedures that simulated positive and negative life events. Of the 212 undergraduate student participants who completed the pretest phase, 179 (128 female, 51 male) participants completed the experimental phase. Eighteen participants were excluded from the experimental phase due to elevated depression scores. The experimental methodology involved random assignment of participants to one of four mood induction procedures (MIP). MIPs were either positive or negative in mood, and either referenced the self or avoided reference to the self. In addition to mood and self-reference, other factors hypothesized to influence self-evaluation change included, (a) the importance ascribed to self-evaluation domains, and (b) overgeneralization, a cognitive vulnerability argued to predispose individuals to depression. Mood induction procedures produced self-evaluation changes among the important domains of self, and these patterns of change were interpreted within Beck's (1987) conception of sociotropic and autonomous self-schemata subtypes. Bower's (1981) associative network theory provided an additional theoretical context for understanding the results, which were largely supportive of cognitive-priming theory. Unimportant self-evaluation domains were largely unaffected by the MIPs, contrary to hypotheses based on the mood-state theory, demonstrating the significant role of importance for the process of self-evaluation. Overgeneralization also influenced self-evaluation change, however, results directly contrasted predictions; participants who reported low and medium, rather than high, levels of baseline overgeneralization reported decreased self-evaluations. Nevertheless, results offer further support for cognitive-priming conceptualizations of self-esteem reactivity, particularly the strong association between overgeneralization and fluctuations in autonomous domains of self. Theoretical implications related to the trait nature of overgeneralization (cognitive process) and self-schemata (cognitive structures) are discussed. The advantages and limitations of employing priming methodologies within cognitive research are also reviewed.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis2004 .T39. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 65-07, Section: B, page: 3728. Adviser: Cheryl Thomas. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 2004.