Role of irrational beliefs in depression and anxiety: a review
K. Robert Bridges, Richard J. Harnish
DOI: 10.4236/health.2010.28130   PDF    HTML     24,052 Downloads   52,425 Views   Citations


Irrational beliefs play a central role in cognitive theory and therapy; they have been shown to be related to a variety of disorders such as depression and anxiety. Irrational beliefs, which can be assessed via clinical interviewing techniques, are frequently assessed by self-report measures, both clinically and for research purposes. Much of the research demonstrating the effect of irrational beliefs has utilized such measures. The present article reviews the empirical work on irrational beliefs assessment and identifies 25 scales and techniques. The measures are organized according to their theoretical affiliation (i.e., either the Ellis or Beck model), with the goal of providing investigators a source to identify the available tests, their shortcomings, and potential applications. The authors conclude with recommendations which would strengthen empirical cohesion and precision in the measurement of irrational beliefs.

Share and Cite:

Bridges, K. and Harnish, R. (2010) Role of irrational beliefs in depression and anxiety: a review. Health, 2, 862-877. doi: 10.4236/health.2010.28130.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Haaga, D.A.F., Dyck, M.J. and Ernst, D. (1991) Empirical status of cognitive theory of depression. Psychological Bulletin, 110(2), 215-236.
[2] Beck, A.T., Rush, A.J., Shaw, B.F. and Emery, G. (1979) Cognitive therapy of depression. Guilford, New York.
[3] Chadwick, P., Trower, P. and Dagnan, D. (1999) Measuring negative person evaluations: The evaluative beliefs scale. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 23(5), 549-559.
[4] Lefebvre, M.F. (1981) Cognitive distortion and cognitive errors in depressed and low back pain patients. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 49(4), 517-525.
[5] Dryden, W. and Ellis, A. (2001) Rational emotive therapy. 2nd Edition, Guilford, New York, 295-348.
[6] Woods, P.J. (1984) Further indications on the validity and usefulness of the Jones irrational beliefs test. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 2(2), 3-6.
[7] Jones, J. and Trower, P. (2004) Irrational and evaluative beliefs in individuals with anger disorders. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22(3), 153-169.
[8] Watter, D.N. (1988) Rational-Emotive education: a review of the literature. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 6(3), 139-145.
[9] Farley, F. (2009) Albert Ellis. American Psychologist, 64(3), 215-216.
[10] Ellis. A. (1997) RET as a personality theory, therapy approach, and philosophy of life. In: Wolfe, J.L. and Brand, E., Eds., Twenty Years of Rational Therapy, Institute for Rational Living, New York.
[11] Ellis, A. (2000) Rational-emotive therapy. In: Corsini, R.J. and Wedding, D., Eds., Current Psychotherapies, 6th Edition, Peacock, Itasca, 168-204.
[12] Bernard, M.E. and Cronan, F. (1999) The child and adolescent scale of irrationality: Validation data and mental health correlates. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 13(2), 121-132.
[13] Beck, A.T. (1976) Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. International Universities Press, New York.
[14] Jones, R.A. (1968) A factored measure of Ellis’ irrational belief system with personality and maladjustment correlates. Dissertation Abstracts International, 29(11-B), 4379- 4380.
[15] Lohr, J.M. and Parkinson, D.L. (1989) Irrational beliefs and bulimia symptoms. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 7(4), 253-262.
[16] Demaria, T. and Kassinove, H. (1988) Predicting guilt from irrational beliefs, religious affiliation, and religiosity. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 6(4), 259-272.
[17] Munoz-Eguileta, A. (2007) Irrational beliefs as predictors of emotional adjustment after divorce. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 25(1), 1-16.
[18] Woods, P.J. (1992) A study of “belief” and “non-belief” items from the Jones Irrational Beliefs Test with implications for the theory of RET. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 10(1), 41-52.
[19] Shorkey, C. and Whiteman, V. (1977) Development of the rational behavior inventory. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 37(2), 527-533.
[20] Zurawski, R.M. and Smith, T.W. (1987) Assessing irrational beliefs and emotional distress: Evidence and implications of limited discriminant validity. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 34(2), 224-227.
[21] McDermut, J.F., Haaga, D.A.F. and Bilek, L.A. (1997) Cognitive bias and irrational beliefs in major depression and dysphoria. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 21(4), 459-476.
[22] Koopmans, P.C., Sanderman, R., Timmerman, I. and Emmelkamp, P.M.G. (1994) The Irrational Beliefs Inventory (IBI): Development and psychometric evaluation. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 10(1), 15- 27.
[23] Keinhorst, C.W.M., van den Bout, J. and de Wilde, E.J. (1993) Does the Rational Behavior Inventory (RBI) assess irrationality or emotional distress? Personality and Individual Differences, 14(2), 375-379.
[24] Himle, D.P., Hnat, S., Thyer, B. and Papsdorf, J. (1985) Factor structure of the rational behavior inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41(3), 368-371.
[25] Kassinove, H., Crisci, R. and Tiegerman, S. (1977) Developmental trends in rational thinking: Implications for rational-emotive school mental health programs. Journal of Community Psychology, 5(3), 273-277.
[26] Smith, T. (1982) Irrational beliefs in the cause and treatment of emotional distress: A critical review of the rational-emotive model. Clinical Psychology Review, 2(4), 389-397.
[27] Jacobsen, R., Tamkin, A. and Hyer, L. (1988) Factor analytic study of irrational beliefs. Psychological Reports, 63(3), 803-809
[28] Bessai, J.L. (1977) A factored measure of irrational beliefs. 2nd National Conference on Rational-Emotive Therapy, Chicago.
[29] Thorpe, G.L., Parker, J.D. and Barnes, G.S. (1992) The Common Beliefs Survey III and its subscales: Discriminant validity in clinical and nonclinical subjects. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 10(2), 95-104.
[30] Ciarrochi, J. (2004) Relationships between dysfunctional beliefs and positive and negative indices of well-being: A critical evaluation of the common beliefs survey III. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22(3), 171-188.
[31] Thorpe, G.L. and Frey, R.B. (1996) A short form of the common beliefs survey III. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 14(3), 193-198.
[32] Harrell, T.H, Chambless, D.L. and Calhoun, J.F. (1981) Correlational relationships between self-statements and affective states. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 5(2), 159- 173.
[33] Thorpe, G.L., Barnes, G.S., Hunter, J.E and Hines, D. (1983) Thoughts and feelings: Correlations in two clinical and two non-clinical samples. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 7(6), 565-574.
[34] Thorpe, G.L., Walter, M.I., Kingery, L.R. and Nay, W.T. (2001) The common beliefs survey III and the situational self-statement and affective state inventory: Test-retest reliability, internal consistency, and further psychometric considerations. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 19(2), 89-103.
[35] Malouff, J. and Schutte, N. (1986) Development and validation of a measure of irrational belief. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(6), 860-862.
[36] Templeman, T.T. (1990) Relationship of M.S. Belief Scale scores to depression and anxiety in hospitalized psychiatric patients. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 8(4), 267-274.
[37] Culhane, S.E. and Watson, P.J. (2003) Alexithymia, irrational beliefs, and the rational-emotive explanation of emotional disturbance. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 21(1), 57-71.
[38] Davies, M.F. (2008) Irrational beliefs and unconditional self-acceptance. II. Experimental evidence for a causal link between two key features of REBT. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 26(2), 89-101.
[39] Bernard, M.E. and Laws, W. (1987) Child and adolescent scale of irrationality. University of Melbourne.
[40] Burnett, P.C. (1994) Self-talk in upper elementary school children: Its relationship with irrational beliefs, self- esteem, and depression. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 12(3), 181-188.
[41] Burnett, P.C. (1995) Irrational beliefs and self-esteem: Predictors of depressive symptoms in children. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 13(3), 193-201.
[42] DiGiuseppe, R., Leaf, R., Exner, T. and Robin, M.W. (1988) The development of a measure of irrational/ rational thinking. World Congress on Behavior Therapy. Edinburgh, Scotland.
[43] Bernard, M.E. (1998) Validation of the general attitude and belief scale. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 16(3), 183-196.
[44] Szentagotal, A. and Freeman, A. (2007) An analysis of the relationship between irrational beliefs and automatic thoughts in predicting distress. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 7(1), 1-9.
[45] Fulop, I.E. (2007). A confirmatory factor analysis of the attitudes and belief scale 2. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 7(2), 159-170.
[46] Braunstein, J.W. (2004) An investigation of irrational beliefs and death anxiety as a function of HIV status. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 22(1), 21-37.
[47] Burgess, P. (1986) Belief systems and emotional disturbance: An evaluation of the rational-emotive model. University of Melbourne, Parkville.
[48] DiGiuseppe, R. and Leaf, R.C. (1990) The endorsement of irrational beliefs in a general clinical population. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 8(4), 235-247.
[49] Addis, J. and Bernard, M.E. (2002) Marital adjustment and irrational beliefs. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 20(1), 3-16.
[50] Demaria, T., Kassinove, H. and Dill, C.A. (1989) Psychometric properties of the survey of personal beliefs: A rational-emotive measure of irrational thinking. Journal of Personality Assessment, 53(2), 329-341.
[51] Kassinove, H. (1986) Self-reported affect and core irrational thinking: A preliminary analysis. Journal of Rational- Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, 4(2), 119-130.
[52] Kassinove, H. and Eckhardt, C.I. (1994) Irrational beliefs and self-reported affect in Russia and America. Personality and Individual Differences, 16(1), 133-142.
[53] Watson, C.G., Vassar, P., Plemel, D., Herder, J., Manifold, V. and Anderson, D. (1990) A factor analysis of Ellis’ irrational beliefs. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 46(4), 412-415.
[54] McDonald, A.P. and Games, R.G. (1972) Ellis’ irrational values. Rational Living, 7(2), 25-28.
[55] Ellis, A. (1962) Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. Citadel, Secaucus.
[56] Maltby, J. and Day, L. (2001) The irrational beliefs survey, one factor or four? A replication of Mahoney’s findings. Journal of Psychology, 135(4), 462-464.
[57] Day, L. and Maltby, J. (2003) Belief in good luck and psychological well-being: The mediating role of optimism and irrational beliefs. Journal of Psychology, 137(1), 99-110.
[58] Egan, P.J., Canale, J.R., del Rosario, P.M. and White, R. M. (2007) The academic irrational beliefs scale: Development, validation, and implications for college counselors. Journal of College Counseling, 10(2), 175- 183.
[59] Ellis, A. (1992) Questionnaire: The elegant solution to emotional and behavioral problems. Albert Ellis Institute, New York.
[60] Blau, S. (2001) A three-factor model of emotional efficiency: Demandingness, ego-disturbance, and discomfort-disturbance. Union Institute and University, Cincinnati, OH.
[61] Blau, S., Fuller, J.R. and Vaccaro, T.P. (2006) Rational- emotive disputing and the five-factor model: Personality dimensions of the Ellis Emotional Inventory. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, 24(2), 87-99.
[62] Bridges, K.R. and Sanderman, R. (2002) The irrational beliefs inventory: Cross-cultural comparisons between American and Dutch samples. Journal of Rational- Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, 20(1), 65-71.
[63] Camatta, C.D. and Nagoshi, C.T. (1995) Stress, depression, irrational beliefs, and alcohol use and problems in a college sample. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 19(1), 143-146.
[64] Hutchinson, G.T., Patock-Peckham, J.A., Cheong, J. and Nagoshi, C.T. (1998) Irrational beliefs and behavioral misregulation in the role of alcohol abuse among college students. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, 16(1), 61-74.
[65] Flett, G.L., Hewitt, P.L., Blankstein, K.R. and Gray, L. (1998) Psychological distress and the frequency of perfectionistic thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(5), 1363-1381.
[66] Ellis, A. (2002) The role of irrational beliefs in perfectionism. In: Flett, G.L. and Hewitt, P.L., Eds., Perfectionism: Theory, research, and treatment. American Psychological Association. Washington, D.C., 217-229.
[67] Flett, G.L., Hewitt, P.L., Whelan, T. and Martin T.R. (2007) The Perfectionism Cognitions Inventory: Psychometric properties and associations with distress and deficits in cognitive self-management. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, 25(4), 255-277.
[68] Smith, J.C. (2002) Stress management: A comprehensive handbook of techniques and strategies. Springer, New York.
[69] Amutio, A. and Smith, J.C. (2007) The factor structure of situational and dispositional versions of the Smith Irrational Beliefs Inventory in a Spanish student population. International Journal of Stress Management, 14(3), 321- 328.
[70] Weissman, A.N. and Beck, A.T. (1978) Development and validation of the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale: A preliminary investigation. Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Toronto.
[71] Macavei, B. (2006) Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale, Form A; norms for the Romanian population. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 6(2), 157-171.
[72] Oliver, J.M. and Baumgart, E.P. (1985) The Dysfunctional Attitude Scale: Psychometric properties and relation to depression in an unselected adult population. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 9(2), 161-167.
[73] Farabaugh, A., Mischoulon, D., Schwartz, F., Pender, M., Fava, M., and Alpert, J. (2007) Dysfunctional attitudes and personality disorder comorbidity during long-term treatment of MDD. Depression and Anxiety, 24(6), 433- 439.
[74] Koenig, H.G., George, L.K., Robins, C.J., Stangl, D. and Tweed, D.L. (1994) The development of a Dysfunctional Attitudes Scale for Medically Ill Elders (DASMIE). Clinical Geronotology, 15(2), 3-22.
[75] Hollon, S.D. and Kendall, P.C. (1980) Cognitive self- statements in depression: Development of an automatic thoughts questionnaire. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 4(4), 383-295.
[76] Burgess, E. and Haaga, D.A.F. (1994) The Positive Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire (ATQ-P) and the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire-Revised (ATQ-RP): Equivalent measures of positive thinking. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 18(1), 15-23.
[77] Ingram, R.E. and Wisnicki, K.S. (1988) Assessment of positive automatic cognition. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56(6), 898-902.
[78] Sharifi, V., Mojtabai, R., Ghassemzadeh, H., Karamghadiri, N. and Ebrahimkhani, N. (2008) Use of the Persian language version of the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire (ATQ) in depressed Iranian women. Depression and Anxiety, 25(5), 35-38.
[79] Wertheim, E.H. and Poulakis, Z. (1992) The relationships among the general attitude and belief scale, other dysfunctional cognition measures, and depressive or bulimic tendencies. Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive Therapy, 10(4), 219-233.
[80] Beckham, E.E., Leber, W.R., Watkins, J.T., Boyer, J.L. and Cook J.B. (1986) Development of an instrument to measure Beck’s cognitive triad: The cognitive triad inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(4), 566-567.
[81] Possel, P. Cognitive Triad Inventory (CTI): Psychometric properties and factor structure of the German translation. Journal of Behavioral Therapy and Experimenal Psychiatry, in press.
[82] Crandell, C.J. and Chambless, D.L. (1986) The validation of an inventory for measuring depressive thoughts: The crandell cognitions inventory. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 24(4), 403-411.
[83] Beck, A.T., Brown, G., Steer, R.A., Eidelson, J.I. and Riskind, J.H. (1987) Differentiating anxiety and depression: A test of the cognitive content-specificity hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psycholology, 96(3), 179-183.
[84] Beck, A.T. and Beck, J.S. (1991) The personality belief questionnaire. The Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, Bala Cynwyd, PA.
[85] Beck, A.T., Butler, A.C., Brown, G.K., Dahlsgaard, K.K., Newman, C.F. and Beck, J.S. (2001) Dysfunctional beliefs discriminate personality disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 39(10), 1213-1225.
[86] Butler, A.C., Beck, A.T. and Cohen, L.H. (2007) The personality belief questionnaire-short form: Development and preliminary findings. Cognitive Therapy Research, 31(3), 357-370.
[87] Watson, D. and Friend, R. (1969) Measurement of social-evaluative anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 33(4), 448-457.
[88] Turner, S.M., McCanna, M. and Beidel, D.C. (1987) Validity of the social avoidance and distress and fear of negative evaluation scales. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 25(2), 113-115.
[89] Leary, M.R. (1983) A brief version of the Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 9(3), 371-375.
[90] Carleton, R.N., McCreary, D.R., Norton, P.J. and Asmundson, G.J.G. (2006) Brief fear of negative evaluation scale-revised. Depression and Anxiety, 23(3), 297-303.
[91] Meyer, T.J., Miller, M.L., Metzger, R.L. and Borkovec, T. D. (1990) Development and validation of the Penn State worry questionnaire. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 28(6), 487-495.
[92] Lim, Y.J., Kim, Y.H., Lee, E.H. and Kwon, S.K. (2008) The Penn State worry questionnaire: Psychometric properties of the Korean version. Depression and Anxiety, 25(10), 97-103.
[93] Steenbergh, T.A., Meyers, A.W., May, R.K. and Whelan, J.P. (2002) Development and validation of the Gamblers’ beliefs questionnaire. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 16(2), 143-149.
[94] Osberg, T.M., Poland, D., Aguayo, G. and MacDougall, S. (2008) The irrational food beliefs scale: Development and validation. Eating Behaviors, 9(1), 25-40.
[95] Hall, P.L. and Papageorgiou, C. (2006) Negative thoughts after childbirth: Development and preliminary validation of a self-report scale. Depression and Anxiety, 22(3), 121-129.
[96] Christensen, A.J., Moran, P.J. and Weibe, J.S. (1999) Assessment of irrational health beliefs: Relation to health practices and medical regimen adherence. Health Psychology, 18(3), 169-176.
[97] Bridges, K.R. and Roig, M. (1997) Academic procrastination and irrational thinking: A re-examination with context controlled. Personality and Individual Differences, 22(6), 941-944.
[98] Montgomery, G.H., David, D., DiLorenzo, T.A. and Schnur, J.B. (2007) Response expectancies and irrational beliefs predict exam-related distress. Journal of Rational- Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 25(1), 17-34.
[99] Roig, M., Bridges, K.R., Renner, C.H. and Jackson, C.R. (1998) Belief in the paranormal and its association with irrational thinking controlled for context effects. Personality and Individual Differences, 24(2), 229-236.
[100] Robb, H.B. and Warren, R. (1990) Irrational beliefs tests: New insights, new directions. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 4(3), 303-311.

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.