Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Philosophy, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jason T. Siegel

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

William D. Crano

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Eusebio M. Alvaro

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jessica Borelli

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Rights Information

© 2019 Tasha Straszewski


Past depression mass media campaigns have been utilized to increase mental health literacy, decrease stigma, or a combination of the two. However, among these campaigns, some have not been effective, and some have resulted in iatrogenic effects (see Gulliver, Griffiths, & Christensen, 2010, for examples of both). In hopes of improving the effectiveness of depression campaigns, laboratory studies have utilized persuasion approaches to increase help-seeking among individuals with heightened depressive symptomatology. More recently, Siegel and Thomson (2016) turned to the utility of infusing individuals with positive emotion to increase help-seeking intentions (i.e., positive emotion infusions; PEIs) and found initial success with elevation but not gratitude. Their results highlighted the need for continued exploration into the application of PEIs to help-seeking. Following these studies, Straszewski and Siegel (2018) considered another test of the PEI approach using savoring (i.e., attending to and appreciating positive experiences as a way to up-regulate one’s positive emotional state; Bryant, 1989). Expanding on the promising results of this prior research, the overall goal of this dissertation was to test the ecological validity of the savoring PEI approach. The first step (Study 1) was to identify the strongest version of savoring to use in a savoring-public service announcement (S-PSA). Considering depressogenic schemas are more dysfunctional when information is greater in self-relevance (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979), it was hypothesized that reducing savoring’s self-focus may result in greater help-seeking intentions. As such, Study 1 (N = 1,308) compared the effects of five savoring writing tasks that varied in self-focus to a neutral control writing task: vicarious savoring, self-distanced savoring, relational savoring, combination savoring, and personal savoring. Results of Study 1 indicated partial support for the hypotheses: relational savoring was associated with greater help-seeking intentions than the neutral control and combination savoring across a series of analyses. However, relational savoring was not significantly better or worse than the other three savoring conditions. Since relational savoring was the only condition that differed significantly from the neutral control and at least one other condition, relational savoring was selected as the approach to test in Study 2. Participants (N = 1,238) in Study 2 were randomly assigned to either the S-PSA, a comparison PSA, or a basic control video. They completed measures of help-seeking attitudes, help-seeking intentions, and a 1-item proxy of help-seeking behavior. Although the S-PSA was predicted to lead to more positive help-seeking attitudes, greater help-seeking intentions, and a greater likelihood to engage in help-seeking behavior than the comparison PSA and basic control, the hypotheses were not supported. Among the exploratory analyses, only the comparison PSA was associated with more positive help-seeking attitudes than the basic control video among individuals who self-reported paying full attention to the videos. These results are in line with prior depression help-seeking studies that found success with a manipulation used in a writing task but null results when used in a video (Hollar & Siegel, 2019b; Tan & Siegel, 2017). Together, these studies shine a light on the possibility that online videos for cognitive tasks may not induce a sufficient level of effortful processing (Hartlage, Alloy, Vázquez, & Dykman, 1993) necessary to engage individuals with heightened depressive symptomatology thereby minimizing automatic negative thinking (Beck, 1967) and spontaneous rumination (Mennen, Norman, & Turk-Brown, 2019). As such, the two studies in this dissertation contribute not only to the line of research on the PEI approach but also to a deeper understanding of the ways to better tailor help-seeking strategies to individuals with heightened depressive symptomatology.