First Advisor

Laurie Skokan

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology






Seasonal affective disorder



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 54 p.)


Traditional psychology has held the view that mentally healthy people have a good grasp of reality. However, studies on self-concept, perceived control and optimism have shown that mentally healthy people have a tendency to distort reality in these areas in a positive, self-serving direction. These studies led Shelley Taylor to coin the term "positive illusions" to describe overly positive self-evaluations, exaggerated perceptions of control, and unrealistic optimism. Taylor also theorized that those who were depressed had fewer positive illusions than those who were not depressed. The current study attempted to extend the foundation of basic research on the concept of positive illusions as well as their relationship to depression. Participants were given questionnaires at two time points (summer and winter) that measured the three components of positive illusions as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or winter depression. It was expected that those who had SAD would be depressed in the winter and therefore have fewer positive illusions at that time than in the summer when they were less depressed. Significant positive correlations between selfconcept, perceived control, and optimism indicated shared variance which is consistent with the existence of an underlying variable, i.e. positive illusions. Though results showed no difference in positive illusion scores between summer and winter, those with higher SAD scores (signifying greater depression) had fewer positive illusions at both time points than those with lower SAD scores. Finally, the remarkable similarity between positive illusion scores at the two time points suggests that positive illusions may exist as a personality trait, rather than being state dependent. Drawbacks of this study and suggestions for future research are discussed.


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