Cognitive Theories of Depression

  • M. J. Power
Part of the Perspectives on Individual Differences book series (PIDF)


What would constitute an adequate cognitive theory of depression? In order to assess extant theories and to speculate about the directions that future theories might take, this question can be broken down into at least three parts: first, the theory should draw on and stand up satisfactorily to current knowledge in cognitive science; second, it necessitates an account of depression that is clinically, empirically, and phenom-enologically sound; and, third, the theory should have useful therapeutic implications. These questions in turn can be further broken down. To consider cognitive adequacy first, the theory should provide an account of at least the following: (a) the type of knowledge representation or belief system; (b) the relationship between cognition and emotion; (c) the occurrence of vulnerability and resilience; and (d) the types of cognitive processes implicated, for example, controlled versus automatic (or conscious versus unconscious) processes. Given that these preliminary cognitive modeling requirements are met, the theory then needs to account for characteristic aspects of depression such as the following: (a) the meaning of depression and its relationship to normal sadness; (b) the natural history of depression, for example, its typically time-limited course; (c) the high prevalence of depression; (d) the interpersonal and contextual aspects of depression, for example, in relation to the importance of loss and failure; and (e) specific clinical and empirical findings, for example, low self-esteem, irrational beliefs, and so on.


Mental Model Cognitive Theory Relative Clause Cognitive Therapy Semantic Network 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. J. Power
    • 1
  1. 1.MRC Social Psychiatry UnitInstitute of PsychiatryLondonEngland

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