Beck (1967) – Cognitive – Maladaptive Thoughts

Beck, A. T. (1967) Depression – Clinical Experimental and Theoretical Aspects, New York: Harper and Row



This is the third study we will be looking at from the ‘Explanations of Dysfunctional Behaviour’ section of ‘Dysfunctional Behaviour’, as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. It is further categorised into ‘Cognitive.

Maher (1974) – If you cannot hear what someone is saying. Then they must be whispering. Then they don’t want you to hear what they are saying. Then they can only be talking about. This is an example of a cognitive distortion.  This kind of thinking is a symptom or maybe a cause of depression


Beck (1967) – studied the cognitive distortions in patients with depression as compared with people who are not depressed.


To understand cognitive distortions in patients with depression.

Method and Design

Clinical interviews with patients who were undergoing therapy for depression.

Independent design as the patients were compared with a group of 31 non-depressed patients undergoing psychotherapy, matched for age, sex, and social position.


50 patients diagnosed with depression consisting of 16 men and 34 women with an age range from 18–48 with median age of 34.


Face-to-face interviews with retrospect reports of patients’ thoughts.

Some patients kept diaries of their thoughts and brought these to the therapy sessions.

Records of the verbalisations of the non-depressed patients were kept to compare with the depressed patients.


Certain themes appeared in the depressed patients, for example low self-esteem, self-blame, overwhelming responsibilities and desire to escape, anxiety caused by thoughts of personal danger, and paranoia and accusations against other people.

Depressed patients had stereotypical responses to situations. Depressed patients regarded themselves as inferior to others.

Some patients felt themselves unlovable and alone.

Self-blame was shown even when blame couldn’t be apportioned to the person.

These distortions tended to be automatic, involuntary, plausible and persistent.


In depression, and even mild depression, patients have cognitive distortions that deviate from realistic and logical thinking.

Beck (1967) Evaluation

– Demand Characteristics – interviews allow for participants to give their own answers and therefore there is the potential for them to lie.

+ Qualitative data – the use of qualitative data allows the identification of differences between the depressed group and the control group.


Beck, A. T. (1967) Depression – Clinical Experimental and Theoretical Aspects, New York: Harper and Row

Further Reading

OCR A2 Psychology Student Unit Guide New Edition: Unit G543 Health and Clinical Psychology (Student Unit Guides)

Psych Yogi’s Top Ten Psychology Revision Tips for the A* Student

Article Name
Beck (1967) - Cognitive - Maladaptive Thoughts
'Explanations of Dysfunctional Behaviour' section of 'Dysfunctional Behaviour', as part of your OCR A2 Health and Clinical Psychology course. Revise 'Cognitive'