Illusion of control: invulnerability to negative affect and depressive symptoms after laboratory and natural stressors

J Abnorm Psychol. 1992 May;101(2):234-45. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.101.2.234.


We examined whether individual differences in susceptibility to the illusion of control predicted differential vulnerability to depressive responses after a laboratory failure and naturally occurring life stressors. The illusion of control decreased the likelihood that subjects (N = 145) would (a) show immediate negative mood reactions to the laboratory failure, (b) become discouraged after naturally occurring negative life events, and (c) experience increases in depressive symptoms a month later given the occurrence of a high number of negative life events. In addition, the stress-moderating effect of the illusion of control on later depressive symptoms appeared to be mediated in part by its effect on reducing the discouragement subjects experienced from the occurrence of negative life events. These findings provide support for the hopelessness theory of depression and for the optimistic illusion-mental health link.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology*
  • Arousal*
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Problem Solving
  • Reality Testing
  • Social Environment*