New Study Tests Integration of Beck’s Cognitive and Response Style Theories of Depression

Patrick Pössel, of the Eberhard-Karls-University, studied students to determine if a combination of two popular theories on depression, namely Beck’s Cognitive Theory and Response Style Theory, would provide better accuracy if elements of both were integrated. Pössel looked specifically at brooding and reflection, or rumination, as a factor for his study. The 397 students were enrolled from a German university and ranged in age from 18 to 52 years old. At the onset of the study, 22.6% of the participants cited significant depressive symptoms in a self-report. The students were measured at three different stages, once at the beginning of the study, and two more times over the course of the four week examination.

Pössel sought to identify the relationship between schemata and rumination. “As depression-related rumination is a symptom of depression, this leads to an overestimation of the association between rumination and depressive symptoms,” said Pössel. “Therefore, the missing association found of brooding and reflection (and their interactions with schemata) with depressive symptoms might be more valid than in some of the previous studies.” Pössel integrated the two theories by allowing schemata to influence the brooding and reflection response, and noted that the integrated method resulted in more accurate data than other models of integration. “However,” said Pössel, “an inspection of the associations in this model reveals that although schemata are associated with brooding and reflection 4 weeks later, neither of the response styles is associated with any other cognitive variable or with depressive symptoms.” Pössel believes this research will dispel any conjecture doubting the validity of Beck’s theory. “In addition,” he added, “compared with the more parsimonious cognitive model of Beck, this integrated model does not fit better, and it does not explain more variance of depressive symptoms.” But Pössel noted, “Compared with the original response style theory, however, the integrated model fits the data better, and it explains 9.7% more variance of depressive symptoms.”

Pössel, P. (2011, August 15). Can Beck’s Theory of Depression and the Response Style Theory Be Integrated?. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025092

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Mike


    August 19th, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    ok. . . I am a little lost here. . . could someone explain this in language that would make a little more sense to a lay person like me?

  • daniella


    August 20th, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    depression is a complex thing and anything that has to do with depression is usually a combination of many things rather than any single it does make sense to realize which of the things holds more prominence. this study had less than 400 subjects all of whom were students from the same geographical location. so it would be more conclusive with a more varied and diverse range of subjects.

  • Eliza


    August 22nd, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Well I am not too well schooled on the theories but it does make sense that you could try the two integrated together in some ways to develop a better and more well rounded treatment plan for a patient. He or she may respond positively to different aspects of each theory at work, so why not try the combo? If they can take something good from each then that has to be a good thing in moving their recovery forward.

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