Specificity of cognitive and behavioral variables to positive and negative affect

Behav Res Ther. 2009 Jul;47(7):608-15. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.04.006. Epub 2009 May 3.


The Tripartite Model proposes that a combination of greater Negative Affect (NA) and reduced Positive Affect (PA) contributes to depressive symptoms. The purpose of this study was to test a model of affective experience in which cognitive variables (i.e., negative cognitions and appraisals) are uniquely related to NA but not PA, and in which behavioral variables (i.e., activity participation) are uniquely associated with PA but not NA. Participants included 88 spousal Alzheimer caregivers (mean age = 74 years). Multiple regression models, in which negative cognitions (i.e., helplessness, blames self, and negative appraisals) and activity participation (i.e., frequency of engaging in social and recreational activities) were used to predict depressive symptoms, PA and NA. Results indicated that while helplessness, blaming oneself, negative appraisals, and activity participation all significantly predicted depressive symptoms, only negative cognitive variables significantly predicted NA, and only activity participation significantly predicted PA. These data confirm that depressive experience consists of two relatively independent components - increased Negative Affect and reduced Positive Affect - which have unique correlates in negative cognitions and activity participation. If confirmed, the findings suggest the utility of focusing interventions on each of these components in the management of depressive symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Affect*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / nursing
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological