The influences of expectations and *attributions on mood in response to an undesirable event

Christopher B Carroll, Fordham University


The goals of the current research were to examine the individual and interactive influences of dispositional expectations and attributional style, as well as situational attributions and expectations on mood in response to a specific real-life event. All 123 participants were recruited from undergraduate introductory psychology courses. All students took a common midterm examination that contributed 50% to the final course grade. The participants ranged in age from 18 to 52 years. Participants completed a demographic questionnaire and identified the grade they expected to receive on the examination, and how important the grade would be to them. The Life Orientation Test-Revised and the Attributional Style Questionnaire were used to assess dispositional expectations and attributions, respectively. Situational expectations and attributions were assessed through a post-examination questionnaire. Participants were also required to rate how satisfied they were with the grade received. Post-examination affective state was assessed using the Profile of Moods States. Multiple regression, correlation, and partial correlation procedures were used in the hypothesis testing. Consistent with the diathesis-stress model, the pre-examination dispositional factors of expectations and attributional style, combined with the post-examination factors of specific attributions for the examination outcome and expectations for the next examination were significantly related to post-examination mood disturbance for the participants for whom the examination was a negative experience, but not for the participants who were satisfied with the outcome. This was true while controlling for the importance of the examination to the participants. All relationships between the predictor variables and mood disturbance were in the hypothesized directions. Dispositional pessimism and negative attributional style, combined with situation-specific negative attributions and pessimistic expectations constituted a diathesis for mood disturbance when individuals encountered a real-life negative experience. In the absence of a negative event, these factors were not related to mood disturbance. In contrast, individuals who exhibited the opposite pattern of expectations and attributions were less likely to experience mood disturbance even when confronted with the same undesirable experience. Although significantly related to one another, dispositional expectations and attributional style and situation-specific expectations each retained a unique amount of explanatory value in relation to mood disturbance in response to a negative life experience.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Personality|Cognitive therapy

Recommended Citation

Carroll, Christopher B, "The influences of expectations and *attributions on mood in response to an undesirable event" (2005). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3166563.