The Cognitive Diathesis in Diathesis Stress Models

The cognitive diathesis proposed by most cognitive models can be traced to the depression theory proposed by Beck (1963,1967). Beck was the first to argue that depression is the result of maladaptive cognitive structures; in particular, that schemas about the self are causally linked to the disorder and are triggered by stressful life events. Although definitions vary somewhat, many investigators conceptualize self-schemas as organized representations of an individual's prior experiences (Segal, 1988). Cognitive structures such as schemas are not randomly distributed throughout the memory system, but are instead connected to each other in varying degrees of association. Functionally, the self-schema significantly influences information processing by selecting what information is extracted from both internal and external sources, and by affecting the encoding as well as the retrieval of information (Alba & Hasher, 1983; Kihlstrom & Cantor, 1984). Although not shared by all cognitive theories of depression, cognitive structures such as schemas represent the guiding conceptual principle that underlies most contemporary accounts of depression.

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