Feelings of control project


People who feel that they have some degree of control over their lives and things that happen to them are also psychologically healthier than those who feel helpless and that life just 'happens' to them. Distortions of feelings of control are important because they have been linked to depression, hopelessness and suicide. In fact, one suggestion, known as depressive realism, is that people who are depressed are more realistic about their control over things. The aim of this three-year research project, funded by the ESRC, is to study how mood affects the basic learning and memory processes that contribute to feelings of control. Quantitative data will be collected using standard learning and memory tasks to test predictions generated from associative models of brain function. Four key aspects of learning will be studied: learning about the environment, the perception of time and rewarding outcomes, and people’s levels of activity. Thus the project will provide a large body of data that will inform the basic science of memory and learning as well as the relation between depressed mood and the learning processes underlying the experience of personal control. This will lead to an improved understanding of how people can have healthy, confident but accurate views of their own behaviour and may contribute to more effective therapeutic treatments for disorders like depression.

Collaborators on this project include Robin Murphy, Nicola Byrom and Caroline Wade.

Msetfi, R. M., Cavus, H. A., & Brosnan, L. (2016, Online First). Enhanced Attention to Context Increases Perceived Control in Mild Depression. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2016.1138134

Byrom, N., Msetfi, R. M., & Murphy, R. A. (2015). Two pathways to causal control: Use and availability of information in the environment in people with and without signs of depression. Acta Psychologica. 157, 1-12: doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2015.02.004

Msetfi, R. M., Wade, C., & Murphy, R. A. (2013). Context and time in causal learning: Contingency and mood dependent effects. PLoS ONE. 8(5), e64063. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064063

The effects of context and time on causal learning: Contingency and mood dependent: Paper presented at the Experimental Psychology Society, London meeting, January 2013.

Depression effects on contingency judgements: Its about time... Poster presented at Associative Learning Symposium, Gregynog, April 2012

Contact: rachel.msetfi@ul.ie for further information.