The paradoxes of depression: a goal driven approach.

Mancini, F., Gangemi, A., (2012). The paradoxes of depression: a goal driven approach. in The goals of cognition: essays in honour of Cristiano Castelfranchi(edited by F. Paglieri, L. Tummolini, R. Falcone e M. Miceli), pp 253.273, College Pubblications

Depressive reaction (DR) is a common and normal reaction to loss and failures when there isn’t subjective  hope of recovery or valid substitution. DR has two main features: pain and inactivity. The latter is due to anhedonia and pessimism. DR presents two paradoxical aspects. From the premise that pain reveals investment in the lost good, derives a first question: why do people continue to invest in something they know is unreachable and irreplaceable? When it becomes clear that reaching the goal is impossible, they should deactivate it and move to another goal. Why does a mind invest in something it knows is unreachable? Why cry over spilled milk? From the premise that anhedonia and pessimism reduce motivation to pursue goals, derives a second question: why, in case of DR, there is a reduction of motivation instead of an increase that could be useful to improve the goal balance and compensate for the loss? Our response is based on the idea that, in DR, there is an increase in investment in the lost good and that the investment is not for its recovery but to avoid losing it even more. A deceased loved one can be further lost, for example, through forgetting, losing interest and becoming interested in other things.
Did DR imply some evolutionary advantage? And, in case of a positive answer, which one? Our solution starts from the premise that the psychological mechanisms of DR have the function of stabilizing investments in adverse situations. This function is advantageous primarily in unpropitious soft situations and can be disadvantageous in hard situations. Nevertheless, the former are much more frequent than the latter and therefore it is plausibile that individuals who have the ability to react with DR to adversity have had more evolutionary advantages than disadvantages

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