The evolutionary significance of depressive symptoms: Different adverse situations lead to different depressive symptom patterns

Matthew C. Keller, Randolph M. Nesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

123 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although much depression may be dysfunctional, the capacity to experience normal depressive symptoms in response to certain adverse situations appears to have been shaped by natural selection. If this is true, then different kinds of situations may evoke different patterns of depressive symptoms that are well suited to solving the adaptive challenges specific to each situation. The authors called this the situation-symptom congruence hypothesis. They tested this hypothesis by asking 445 participants to identify depressive symptoms that followed a recent adverse situation. Guilt, rumination, fatigue, and pessimism were prominent following failed efforts; crying, sadness, and desire for social support were prominent following social losses. These significant differences were replicated in an experiment in which 113 students were randomly assigned to visualize a major failure or the death of a loved one.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-330
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Volume91
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2006

Keywords

  • Darwinian psychiatry
  • Depression subtypes
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Psychopathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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