Future Expectations in Clinical Depression: Biased or Realistic?

Ulrike Zetsche*, Paul Christian Bürkner, Babette Renneberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Negative expectations have been highlighted as a key mechanism in the maintenance and recurrence of depression. Nonetheless, no study has investigated currently depressed individuals' expectations about their future mood so far. This is surprising given that experiences of sustained negative mood and lack of positive mood are the hallmark symptoms of depression. The present study thus assessed depressed individuals' expectations about their future mood and examined whether these expectations are accurate or negatively biased. The study used experience sampling methodology (ESM) to contrast participants' expectations with their actually experienced sad and happy mood within a 4-day period. At the end of this period, participants recalled their past mood. All variables were assessed in 30 clinically depressed individuals and 37 matched healthy controls, as well as in 56 undergraduate students with a wide range in depressive symptoms. Results revealed that clinically depressed individuals held negatively biased expectations about their future mood: they expected more sad and less happy mood than they actually experienced. In contrast, healthy individuals showed realistic expectations about their future mood. Depressed individuals also demonstrated a negative mood recall bias. Finally, individuals' expectations and memories were more closely linked to depression status than their actually experienced mood. Although negative mood is the hallmark symptom of depression, the expectations and memories of negative mood may be even more central for the understanding of depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 678–688
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Affective forecasting
  • Depression
  • Expectations
  • Experience sampling methodology
  • Memory bias

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