Macrolevel linkages

We have considered evidence indicating that individuals who are vulnerable to depression exhibit lower overall levels of social activity (e.g., Gotlib & Lee, 1989). In light of this evidence, one question that remains unanswered is why levels of social activity are persistently low in vulnerable individuals. Although several factors are almost certainly involved, our account here will focus on macro-level socioemotional links between typical levels of social activity and the appetitive and defensive motivational systems. These two motivational systems, as we have reviewed, influence a person's characteristic affective reactions to stimuli in the environment (including social stimuli). Consistent with this premise, temperament research indicates that a person's characteristic affective style (Davidson, 1998) develops from an early age, is stable, and has a significant biological basis (e.g., Kagan, 1998). The long-range stability exhibited by the appetitive and defensive motivational systems raises the possibility that the motivational systems of depression-vulnerable individuals "set" social activity at abnormally low levels.

The appetitive system has a role in facilitating social relations. Supporting this notion, individuals who typically experience high levels of positive affect also report higher levels of social activity (Clark & Watson, 1988). In contrast, low levels of positive affect (such as that reported during depressive episodes) are associated with a reduced drive to socialize with others (e.g., Blanchard et al., 2001). If weakness in the appetitive system generates the low prevailing levels of social activity seen in individuals who are vulnerable to experiencing depression, appetitive system abnormalities should be observable during well periods independently of depressive symptomatology. To date, however, empirical findings bearing on this point are mixed. Although self-reports of social anhedonia have been found to track depression symptom levels (Blanchard et al., 2001), other indicators of appetitive deficits, such as low levels of self-reported reward responsiveness (Kasch et al., 2002) and hypoacti-vation of the left frontal lobes (e.g., Henriques & Davidson, 1990), occur independently of current depression symptom levels. These latter findings underscore the possibility that the smaller and less active social networks characteristic of depression-vulnerable individuals originate from low tonic activation of the appetitive system. This formulation, we think, is inherently plausible. For example, depression-vulnerable individuals might not seek out novel social contacts because they do not anticipate receiving pleasure from such contacts. Clearly, further examination of the relation between social activity and appetitive deficits in depression will be an important avenue for future work

There is reason to believe that the defensive motivation system also exerts an ongoing influence on social activity levels. In contrast to the appetitive system, which facilitates socializing, activation of the defensive system dampens social exploration. Previous work in other areas suggests that behaviorally inhibited children (that is, children who are fearful when confronted with novel persons or stimuli) are less likely to seek out new friendships and are considered shy by their peers (Kagan, 1998). Importantly, both adults and children who are vulnerable to depression have been found to have high scores on measures of defensive motivation (that is, behavioral inhibition) (Kasch et al., 2002; Rosenbaum et al., 2000). These findings are also consistent with the possibility that the high tonic activation of the defense system sets social activity levels at low prevailing levels. Indeed, consistent with the idea that individuals who are vulnerable to depression are highly tuned to social threats, depression-vulnerable individuals appear to be differentially sensitive to the effects of peer rejection (Boivin et al., 1995) and to criticism by intimates (Hooley & Gotlib, 2000). And, as we will discuss in the following section, currently depressed persons' social behavior appears to be shaped more by the harm-avoidance function of the defense system than by the pleasure-seeking function of the appetitive system.

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