While it is known that people with depression see their present and future life enveloped in grief, however, a study has recently found that it also casts a long shadow over people’s memories of the past. According to researchers, depressed people have a peculiar view of the past — rather than glorifying the ‘good old days’ they project their generally bleak outlook on to past events. Previous research has shown that your gender may also influence how you suffer from depression and that shock therapy could act as an antidepressant.
Dr Hartmut Blank from the University of Portsmouth in England said the depression is not only associated with a negative view of the world, the self and the future, but also with a negative view of the past. The researchers claim that the first clear link between depression and hindsight bias, or a distorted view of the past. Blank stated that everyone is susceptible to hindsight bias, but it takes on a very specific form in depression.
While non-depressed people tend to show hindsight bias for positive events but not negative events, people with depression show the reverse pattern. They tested over 100 university students about half of whom suffered from mild to severe depression. They were asked to imagine themselves in a variety of everyday scenarios with positive or negative outcomes (e.g. work, performance, family, leisure, social and romantic life).
Hindsight bias includes three core elements — exaggerated perceptions of foresee ability — we think we knew all along how events would turn out; inevitability — something ‘had’ to happen; and memory bias — misremembering what we once thought when we know the outcome of something. The results showed that with increasing severity of depression, a specific hindsight bias pattern emerged — exaggerated foreseeability and inevitability of negative (but not positive) event outcomes, as well as a tendency to misremember initial expectations in line with negative outcomes.
The researchers have also explained that everyone experiences disappointment and regret from time to time, but people with depression struggle to control negative feelings and hindsight bias. The research has appeared in journal of Clinical Psychological Science.