The Role of Dysphoria in the Predictions, Experience, and Memory of Happiness
The role of positive affect and happiness in depression and vice versa is the subject of a growing tide of scientific research. Although a deficit in positive feelings – anhedonia – is the hallmark of depression, the mechanisms underpinning the interaction between depression and happiness are yet to be clearly understood. Dysphoria, or sub-threshold depression, is a prevalent and growing concern particularly among young people, and emerging research suggests that it is associated with biases in positive emotion processing and regulation, which may foreshadow the development of a clinically significant disorder. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of dysphoria in the predictions, experience, and memory of everyday happiness in a young adult population. One hundred and sixty university students aged between 17 and 30 were asked about their general happiness and to predict their level of happiness over an upcoming two weeks. They were then asked to rate their level of happiness several times per day for two weeks, to recall their levels of happiness and, finally, to make predictions about their future happiness. Participants were assigned to a high-dysphoria and a low-dysphoria group based on their scores on a measure of depressive symptomatology. Results showed that dysphoria was associated with dampened predicted, experienced, and remembered happiness, diminished memory-experience and prediction-experience gaps, significance of troughs in predicting memories, and more cognitive-based rather than experience-based memories of happiness. Overall, the findings imply that significant deficits in positive feelings, spanning beliefs, experience, memory, and anticipation of happiness are evident in sub-threshold depression, and this pattern of deficits may contribute to the maintenance of lower happiness in dysphoric individuals, which may put them at risk of poor physical and psychological outcomes.
Advisor: Conner, Tamlin
Degree Name: Master of Science
Degree Discipline: Psychology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: dysphoria; happiness; memory; affective forecasting; experience sampling
Research Type: Thesis