Beck found that depressed people are more likely to focus on the negative aspects of a situation, while ignoring the positives. They are prone to distorting and misinterpreting information, a process known as cognitive bias.
Beck detailed numerous cognitive biases, two of which include: over-generalisations and catastrophising. For example, a depressed person may make over-generalisations,where they make a sweeping conclusion based on a single incident, for example: ‘I’ve failed one end of unit test and therefore I’m going to fail ALL of my AS exams!’ Alternatively, a depressed person may experience catastrophising, where they exaggerate a minor setback and believe that it’s a complete disaster, for example: ‘I’ve failed one end of unit test and therefore I am never going to study at University or get a good job!’
A schema is a ‘package’ of knowledge, which stores information and ideas about our self and the world around us. These schemas are developed during childhood and according to Beck, depressed people possess negative self-schemas, which may come from negative experiences, for example criticism, from parents, peers or even teachers.
A person with a negative self-schema is likely to interpret information about themselves in a negative way, which could lead to cognitive biases, such as those outlined above.