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Depression may bring rejection even in volunteer selection situations.

A woman who has battled serious depression for most of her adulthood stated, "I thought I was worthless, but volunteering gave me back some self-esteem and helped me to stop feeling so isolated" (Oliver, 2006, p. 1). Imagine if the depressed woman quoted above never got the opportunity to volunteer; imagine how different her life would be. Although volunteering is negatively correlated with depressive symptoms (Li & Ferraro, 2006; Lum & Lightfoot, 2005; Musick & Wilson, 2003) and research consistently demonstrates that people who volunteer report better health and greater happiness than people who do not volunteer (Borgonovi, 2008; Piliavin & Siegl, 2007; Thoits & Hewitt, 2001), depressed individuals may not get the opportunity to volunteer. The purpose of this study is to examine whether or not depressed individuals are rejected in volunteer selection situations.

Stigma of Mental Illness

Mentally ill individuals are often stigmatized by others. Public stigma occurs when people endorse a set of prejudicial attitudes, negative beliefs, and discriminatory behaviors toward individuals with mental illness (Corrigan, 2000). Unfortunately, these stigmatized individuals may recognize the public's negative responses and internalize them, a process that results in self-stigma (Corrigan & Watson, 2002). Both types of stigma can negatively affect the lives of people with mental illness.

Regarding depression, research has demonstrated that the public perceives depressed individuals as potentially dangerous and capable of arousing negative emotions from others (Angermeyer & Matschinger, 2004; Peluso & Blay, 2009). Similarly, individuals with depression and anxiety disorders are more likely to report experiencing self-stigma than people with chronic physical conditions (Alonso et al., 2008).

Many adverse consequences are associated with the stigmatization of those with mental illness. One such consequence is social rejection. Mentally ill individuals, particularly those who are depressed, are rejected in friendship situations (Coyne, 1976; Joiner, 1996; Joiner & Metalsky, 1995; Strack & Coyne, 1983) as well as employee selection and promotion situations (Chan, McMahon, Cheing, Rosenthal, & Bezyak, 2005; Koser, Matsuyama, & Kopelman, 1999).

Depression and Rejection

Individuals with depression are rejected across many forms of interactions. For example, research using depressed and non-depressed college roommates provides evidence that depressed individuals are rejected in face-to-face interactions with others (Hokanson, Rubert, Welker, Hollander, & Hedeen, 1989; Joiner, 1996; Joiner & Metalsky, 1995; Strack & Coyne, 1983). In addition, research has demonstrated that depressed individuals described by written (Sacco & Dunn, 1990), visual (Pettit, Paukert, & Joiner, 2005; Vaerum & McCabe, 2001), and auditory depictions (Gurtman, 1987) are rejected by others.

Depressed people are also rejected in other, more formal social interactions, for example, those occurring within their workplace. Individuals with depression file significantly more allegations of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act than people with other physical or mental disabilities (Chan et al., 2005), indicating that they perceive discrimination in this setting. Research has illustrated that depressed individuals are, in fact, discriminated against in both employment and promotion situations. Specifically, employers are more willing to hire a physically disabled applicant compared to an applicant with depression, as they foresee potential performance problems and have concerns about absenteeism with the depressed applicant (Koser et al., 1999). Individuals with depression are also less likely to get a job interview (Pearson, Ip, Hui, Yip, Ho, & Lo, 2003) and are less likely to be recommended for a promotion compared to those with physical and medical disorders (Bordieri & Drehmer, 1997).

In addition to experiencing rejection in employee selection and promotion situations, individuals with depression may also experience rejection when applying to formal volunteer positions. If discrimination does occur in volunteer selection situations, it could be harmful, as research demonstrates that volunteering is associated with many mental health benefits that could be particularly helpful for those with depression (Li & Ferraro, 2006; Lum & Lightfoot, 2005; Musick & Wilson, 2003).

Theories of Why the Depressed are Rejected

Coyne's (1976) interactional theory of depression argues that depressed individuals' need for interest, concern, and sympathy from the social environment can become burdensome over time and can cause their friends and family to view interactions with them as unpleasant. Eventually, others may reject or avoid the depressed individual. This theory is well supported, as research has consistently found a significant relationship between depression and rejection (Hokanson et al., 1989; Joiner, 1996; Joiner & Metalsky, 1995; Strack & Coyne, 1983).

Lewinsohn argues that depressed people have social skills deficits and therefore receive negative feedback in the form of rejection from their social environment (McCann & Lalonde, 1993). Research has demonstrated that the public, as well as depressed individuals themselves, rate depressed individuals' social skills as lacking (Dalley, Bolocofsky & Karlin, 1994; Youngren & Lewinsohn, 1980).

Volunteering as an Intervention

There are many benefits associated with volunteering. Compared to people who do not volunteer, those who do volunteer report better health and greater happiness (Borgonovi, 2008; Thoits & Hewitt, 2001) and reduced depressive symptoms, especially among older adults (Li & Ferraro, 2006; Lum & Lightfoot, 2005; Musick & Wilson, 2003). Although the methodology used to examine the volunteering-depression relationship is primarily correlational, laboratory research on the effects of helping behavior on mood demonstrates that when people engage in helping behavior, their mood improves (Millar, Millar, & Tesser, 1988; O'Malley & Andrews, 1983; Williamson & Clark, 1989; Yinon & Landau, 1987).

Due to these aforementioned benefits, practicing psychologists often incorporate volunteer activity into therapeutic interventions. Behavioral activation for depression, for example, is a specific type of behavior therapy that teaches clients to engage in activities that are reinforcing to them, like volunteering (Barlow, 2008). Even more, a treatment delivery model that allows clients to earn therapy hours in exchange for hours of volunteer work has emerged (Hubbell, 2007).

To date, no studies have examined whether or not depressed individuals are rejected in volunteer selection situations. The present study, which includes two experiments, extends the current research on the depression-rejection relationship by evaluating if depressed individuals are, in fact, rejected in these situations and whether or not gender moderates the relationship in this context. Since non-profit organizations are essentially getting a service at no cost by hiring volunteers, it was hypothesized that the applicant who exhibited depressive behaviors would not be denied the opportunity to volunteer. Instead, it was predicted that she would be rated as less hireable and less appropriate for social tasks, held in a lower esteem, and held at a greater social distance than the applicant who did not exhibit depressive behaviors.

EXPERIMENT 1

Method

Participants. Ninety-two volunteer coordinators from non-profit organizations in the Midwestern part of the United States (M age = 38.10 years; SD = 6.31 years) participated in this study. Approximately 98% of the participants were female. The majority of participants identified themselves as White/Non-Hispanic. They were recruited to participate in a study examining how people make volunteer selection decisions. In exchange for their participation, participants were entered into a raffle with the winner receiving $100 for him/herself and $100 for their non-profit organization.

The researcher first attended two Cincinnati Association of Volunteer Administrators (CAVA) meetings and asked those in attendance (approximately 45 members in total) who were volunteer coordinators at their respective agencies to participate in this study. From these meetings, 24 CAVA members were willing to participate. Next, the researcher called/emailed 300 randomly sampled non-profit organizations, located mostly in Ohio, asking their volunteer coordinators to participate. Sixty-two volunteer coordinators were willing to participate, a response rate of approximately 20%. A standardized recruitment script was used to recruit participants.

During the participant recruitment process, an employee of a nonprofit organization that employs multiple volunteer coordinators offered to post a description of this study, along with the researcher's contact information, on the organization's intranet in order to recruit more participants. In response, six volunteer coordinators volunteered to participate by contacting the researcher.

Measures.

Hireability of Applicant. Consistent with past research (Bordieri & Drehmer, 1997), the perceived hireability of the volunteer applicant was measured by asking the participants, "To what extent is the applicant hireable for this volunteer position?" Participants responded to this item on a 9-point scale from not hireable to extremely hireable.

Willingness to Hire. As an alternative measure of the perceived hireability of the applicant, the participants were asked, in the form of a yes or no question, if they would hire the applicant. If the participants would not allow the person to volunteer at their organization, they were asked to describe, in an open-ended fashion, the conditions that would be necessary for them to hire the applicant. Of the 92 participants, 17 completed the open-ended item.

Task Appropriateness Survey. This measure was created for the current study to determine whether discrimination occurs in the types of tasks the volunteer applicant was assigned. It includes a list of six tasks requiring different levels of social contact. Participants rated on a 7-point Likert scale how appropriate each task would be for their volunteer applicant, where a low score indicates that the task is not appropriate and a high score indicates that the task is very appropriate.

The Dictionary of Occupational Titles (Farr, Ludden, & Shatkin, 2002) categorizes jobs according to several constructs, including conceptual, technical, and people skills. Based on the categorization system, three tasks associated with occupations that require little social contact with other people (i.e., "entering data into the computer", "preparing records and reports", and "preparing charts and diagrams") and three tasks associated with occupations that require a lot of social contact with other people (i.e., "greeting persons entering the establishment", "answering questions and providing information to the public", and "directing visitors/volunteers to specific destinations") were generated. Additionally, these particular tasks were chosen because they were listed in the descriptions of several actual volunteer positions found online.

The appropriateness scores for the three non-social tasks were summed to create a total appropriateness score for the non-social tasks (Cronbach's alpha = .87). Similarly, the appropriateness scores for the three social tasks were summed to create a total appropriateness score for the social tasks (Cronbach's alpha = .96). For both subscales, higher total scores indicated greater perceptions of appropriateness.

Evaluation of Target on Revision of Rosenberg Self-Esteem Questionnaire. The R-SEQ was created by Rosenberg (1965), and its validity and reliability measuring has received empirical support (Joiner, Alfanso, & Metalsky, 1992; Swann, Wenzlaff, Krull, & Pelham, 1992). The revised R-SEQ measures the esteem in which participants hold the target, and is considered by Pettit et al. (2005) to be "a measure of that aspect of rejection involving negative evaluation of the target's global worth as a person" (p. 258). Consistent with how the revised R-SEQ was used in previous depression-rejection research (Joiner, 1996; Joiner et al., 1992; Pettit et al., 2005), the 10 items were reworded in this study so that participants completed it in regard to the esteem in which they held the volunteer applicant. For example, "I feel that the volunteer applicant is a person of worth, at least on an equal plane with others" and "I wish I could have more respect for the volunteer applicant." Each of the items is rated on a 4-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. A sum of the items was calculated to determine the total score (Cronbach's alpha = .89), with higher scores indicating greater esteem of the applicant. This measure was presented to the participants as "Beliefs about the Volunteer Applicant."

Willingness-to-Interact Scale. (WILL; Coyne, 1976). The WILL scale includes a series of nine questions that evaluate the participants' level of willingness to interact with the applicant. Each of the items, (e.g., "Would you like to meet this person?"), is rated on a 6-point scale from not willing to very willing. A sum of the items was calculated (Cronbach's alpha = .90), with lower scores indicating less willingness to interact with the applicant. The WILL scale, or some adaptation of it, has been used in previous depression-rejection research (Joiner & Metalsky, 1995; Vaerum & McCabe, 2001) and its reliability and construct validity have received empirical support (Burchill & Stiles, 1988; Coyne, 1976).

Procedure. This study was approved by the Xavier University Institutional Review Board. Volunteer coordinators who chose to participate received an email directing them to an online survey.

After providing informed consent, the participants read the application of a potential volunteer, which was created using the United Way volunteer application as a guide. The participants were then randomly assigned to watch a video-clip of either an applicant who exhibited depressive behaviors (depressed behaviors condition) or an applicant who did not exhibit such behaviors (non-depressed behaviors condition) being interviewed for a volunteer position. The actress in both of the video-clips was a 30-year-old Caucasian female who was instructed to respond to a series of five questions posed by the interviewer. These questions were chosen from a list of interview questions used by an international non-profit organization. The interviewer, who was not on camera, was female. Although the content of the interview was standardized, only the depressed applicant engaged in behaviors characteristic of depression. These behaviors, which are consistent with the research on social skills deficits and depression (Darby, Simmons, & Berger, 1984; Dow & Craighead, 1987; Ellgring & Scherer, 1996; Youngren & Lewinsohn, 1980), included: minimal eye contact, long pause duration, low speech volume, low speech rate, and flat affect. The actress exhibited these depressive behaviors, albeit not continuously, throughout most of the video-clip. For example, she made eye contact sporadically (i.e., roughly 30% of the interview), she engaged in long pauses before responding to the interviewer's questions, and although she did present flat affect, she smiled occasionally. It should be noted that the actress was positioned directly across from both the interviewer and the camera so that certain behaviors could easily be seen by the participants (i.e., eye contact and affect).

After reading the volunteer application and watching the randomly assigned video-clip, the participants rated their perceptions of the applicant's hireability. Next, using the Task Appropriateness Survey, the participants rated the appropriateness of several tasks requiring different levels of social contact for their volunteer applicant. The participants then indicated if they would allow the person to volunteer at their organization, and if their answer was "no," they described the conditions that would be necessary for them to hire the applicant.

In order to assess the participants' evaluation of the applicant and their willingness to engage in future interaction with the applicant, the participants then completed the Evaluation of Target on Revision of Rosenberg Self-Esteem Questionnaire and the Willingness-to-Interact Scale. After completing all the dependent measures, the participants completed a series of items that functioned as a manipulation check. The participants identified the absence/presence of the following behaviors; "little eye contact with the interviewer," "took a long time to respond when answering the interviewer's questions," "smiled a lot with the interviewer," "talked slowly," and "low speech volume." After completion of data collection, all participants read a debriefing document online and were thanked for their participation in the study.

Results

Manipulation Check. The participants identified (absence/presence) whether the applicant they viewed exhibited five of the behaviors characteristic of depression (i.e., "little eye contact with the interviewer," "talked slowly," etc.). Across the five behaviors, 73.3% of participants correctly identified the absence/presence of the behaviors. Regarding specific behaviors, the percent of participants who correctly recognized the absence/presence of the behaviors was: 82.2% for little eye contact with the interviewer, 81.1% for took a long time to respond when answering the interviewer's questions, 70.8% for low speech volume, 66.7% for talked slowly, and 65.6% for smiled a lot with the interviewer. See Table 1 for the percent of participants in each condition who were able to correctly identify the five behaviors described above.

Willingness to Hire. A 2 (condition: depressed behaviors or non-depressed behaviors) x 2 (decision to hire applicant: yes or no) chi-square contingency test indicated the proportion of participants in the depressed behaviors condition who hired the applicant (60.9%) was significantly less than the proportion of participants in the non-depressed behaviors condition who hired the applicant (95.7%), X2(1, N = 92) = 16.36, p < .001.

Hireability and Appropriateness of Tasks. To determine whether there was an impact of the condition (depressed behaviors or non-depressed behaviors) on the participants' perceptions of the applicant's hireability (as measured by a nine-point Likert scale), appropriateness for non-social tasks, and appropriateness for social tasks, a MANOVA was conducted. The condition functioned as the independent variable, with the dependent variables being the participants' total scores on the Hireability of Applicant measure, the total appropriateness score for the three non-social tasks, and the total appropriateness score for the three social tasks. Results of the MANOVA indicated a significant effect of the condition, Wilks' [LAMBDA} = .31, F(3, 88) = 66.40, p < .001, multivariate [[eta].sup.2] = .69. The mean and standard deviation of each outcome variable for each condition are presented in Table 2.

Multiple post hoc ANOVAs were conducted to assess whether there are differences between the conditions for each of the dependent variables. All follow-ups were adjusted using the Bonferroni correction (.05/3). The condition significantly affected hireability ratings (F(1, 90) = 75.70, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .46), where an inspection of the mean scores indicated that the applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors was rated as less hireable than the applicant who did not exhibit such behaviors. The condition also significantly affected perceptions of the appropriateness of social tasks (F(1, 90) = 174.48, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .66). Social tasks were perceived to be significantly less appropriate for the applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors than the applicant who did not exhibit depressed behaviors. The condition did not influence the total appropriateness score for the three non-social tasks.

Social Rejection. To determine whether the condition (depressed behaviors or non-depressed behaviors) influenced the esteem in which the participants held the applicant as well as their willingness to interact with the applicant, a MANOVA was conducted. The condition functioned as the independent variable, with the dependent variables being the participants' total scores on the two social rejection measures (the perceived esteem scale and Willingness to Interact Scale). Results of the MANOVA indicated a significant effect of the condition, Wilks' [LAMBDA] = .62, F(2, 89) = 27.30, p < .001, multivariate [[eta].sup.2] = .38. The mean and standard deviation of each outcome variable for each condition are presented in Table 2.

Two post hoc ANOVAs were conducted to assess whether there are differences among groups for the dependent variables. All follow-ups were adjusted using the Bonferroni correction (.05/2). The effect of the condition was significant for the esteem in which the participants held the applicant (F(1, 90) = 54.54, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .38). The mean scores indicated that the applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors was held in a lower esteem compared to the applicant who did not exhibit these behaviors. The effect of the condition was also significant for willingness to interact with the applicant (F(1, 90) = 27.67, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .24). Participants were less willing to interact with the applicant who engaged in depressed behaviors than the applicant who did not engage in these behaviors.

Discussion

The results of Experiment 1 indicate that, consistent with the literature (and the majority of the study's hypotheses), the volunteer applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors was less likely to be hired, rated as less hirable and less appropriate for social tasks, held in lower esteem, and held at a greater social distance than the applicant who did not exhibit depressed behaviors. Several possible explanations could account for these findings, for example, the depressed applicant could have been rejected based on the depressive behaviors she exhibited in the video-clip and/or the depressive behaviors could have led to a "lay diagnosis" of depression and the subsequent labeling of the applicant as being "depressed." Since Experiment 1 was limited in that participants only evaluated a female applicant, Experiment 2 was conducted to determine if depressed behaviors also affected the evaluation of a male applicant.

EXPERIMENT 2

Method

Participants. Participants included 172 (75 men, 88 women, and 9 people who did not disclose their gender) college students recruited from the psychology department's participant pool who volunteered for a study on how people make volunteer selection decisions in exchange for research credit. The majority of participants identified themselves as White/Non-Hispanic (82%), while 5.2% identified as African American, 2.9% as Hispanic, 1.2% as Indian, 1.2% as Asian, and 2.3% as "Other"). Measures and Procedure. In order to determine if the gender of the applicant affected the participants' responses, two conditions were added to Experiment 1: a video clip depicting a male applicant engaging in the depressed behaviors condition and a video clip depicting a male applicant engaging in non-depressed behaviors condition.

The researchers made several attempts to standardize the interview so as to control for confounding variables. For example, a male actor who shared similar demographic characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, age, etc.) to the female actor in Experiment 1 was selected to play the role of the applicant. The male actor used the identical interview transcript and studied Experiment 1's video-taped interviews in order to accurately mimic the female actor's depressed and non-depressed behaviors. Additionally, the researchers controlled for video production characteristics (e.g., video quality, camera angle, placement of the video camera, etc.). Finally, a male name was added to the application used in Experiment 1.

Thus, a 2 (gender of applicant: female or male) x 2 (behavior: depressed or non-depressed) model was used. The dependent measures and manipulation check were identical to those used in Experiment 1.

Results

Manipulation Check. The participants identified (absence/presence) whether the applicant they viewed exhibited five of the behaviors characteristic of depression (i.e., "little eye contact with the interviewer", "talked slowly", etc.). Across the five behaviors, 79.4% of participants correctly identified the absence/presence of the behaviors. In regards to the specific behaviors, the percent of participants who correctly recognized the absence/presence of the behaviors was: 80.8% for little eye contact with the interviewer, 87.2% for took a long time to respond when answering the interviewer's questions, 79.1% for low speech volume, 82.6% for talked slowly, and 67.4% for smiled a lot with the interviewer. See Table 3 for the percent of participants in each condition who correctly identified the absence and presence of the behaviors.

To ensure that the male applicant's behavior mirrored the female applicant's behavior in the respective conditions, chi-square analyses compared the proportion of participants who correctly identified the absence/presence of the five behaviors in regards to the male applicant to the proportion who correctly identified the behaviors in regards to the female applicant. Results indicated that the applicant's gender did not influence the participants' ability to identify the absence or presence of the behaviors, suggesting that the behavior within the depressed and non-depressed conditions was standardized.

Willingness to Hire. A 2 (gender of the applicant: female or male) x 2 (behavior: depressed or non-depressed) x 2 (decision to hire applicant: yes or no) chi-square contingency test was used to determine if the proportion of participants in the depressed behaviors condition who indicated that they would hire the applicant was significantly less than the proportion of participants in the non-depressed behaviors condition who indicated that they would hire the applicant and whether that decision was affected by the applicant's gender. The overall chi-square value was statistically significant, [chi square](3, N = 169) = 15.24, p < .001 and thus post hoc tests were conducted. Consistent with Experiment 1's results, a main effect of behavior was found. The proportion of participants in the depressed behaviors condition who hired the male (71.1.%) and the female applicant (46.3.%) was significantly less than the proportion of participants in the non-depressed behaviors condition who hired the male (90.0%) and the female applicant (80.0%), [X.sup.2](1, N = 85) = 4.72, p = .027 and [X.sup.2](1, N = 84) = 9.01, p = .002, respectively.

Although irrelevant to the hypotheses, there was a main effect of the gender of the applicant. Whereas the proportion of participants in the non-depressed behaviors condition who hired the male applicant (90.0.%) did not significantly differ from the proportion of participants who hired the female applicant (80.0.%), [chi square](1, N = 70) = 1.40, p = .24, in the depressed behavior condition the proportion of participants who hired the male (71.1%) was significantly greater than the proportion of participants who hired the female applicant (46.3%), [chi square](1, N = 99) = 6.16, p = .013.

Hireability and Appropriateness of Tasks. To determine whether there was an impact of the condition (depressed behaviors or non-depressed behaviors) on the participants' perceptions of the applicant's hireability (as measured by a nine-point Likert scale), appropriateness for non-social tasks, and appropriateness for social tasks, a MANOVA was conducted. The gender of the applicant and the behavior (depressed or non-depressed) functioned as the independent variables, with the dependent variables being the participants' total scores on the Hireability of Applicant measure, the total appropriateness score for the three nonsocial tasks, and the total appropriateness score for the three social tasks. Results of the MANOVA indicated a significant main effect of the behavior, Wilks' [LAMBDA] = .78, F(3, 168) = 14.93, p < .001, multivariate [[eta].sup.2] = .22. There was no main effect of the gender of the applicant, as well as no interaction effect. The mean and standard deviation of each outcome variable for each condition are presented in Table 4.

Multiple post hoc ANOVAs, one for each dependent variable, were conducted to assess whether there are differences between the depressed and non-depressed conditions for each of the dependent variables. All follow-ups were adjusted using the Bonferroni correction (.05/3). All results were consistent with those found in Experiment 1. The applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors was rated as less hireable than the applicant who did not exhibit such behaviors, (F(1, 170) = 12.97, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .08). Social tasks were perceived to be significantly less appropriate for the applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors than the applicant who did not exhibit depressed behaviors, (F(1, 170) = 43.07, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .21). The condition did not influence the total appropriateness score for the three non-social tasks.

Social Rejection. A similar 2 x 2 MANOVA was conducted with the dependent variables being the participants' total scores on the two social rejection measures (the perceived esteem scale and Willingness to Interact Scale). Results of the MANOVA indicated a significant main effect of the behavior, Wilks' [LAMBDA] = .79, F(2, 169) = 21.14, p < .001, multivariate [[eta].sup.2] = .21. There was also a significant main effect for the gender of the applicant, Wilks' [LAMBDA] = .95, F(2, 169) = 4.14, p = .018, multivariate [[eta].sup.2] = .049, but no interaction effect. The mean and standard deviation of each outcome variable for each condition are presented in Table 4.

Two post hoc ANOVAs, one for each dependent variable, were conducted to assess whether the applicant's behavior affected both dependent variables. All follow-ups were adjusted using the Bonferroni correction (.05/2). All results were consistent with those found in Experiment 1. The mean scores indicated that the applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors was held in lower esteem compared to the applicant who did not exhibit these behaviors (F(1, 170) = 38.77, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .19). Participants were less willing to interact with the applicant who engaged in depressed behaviors than the applicant who did not engage in these behaviors, (F(1, 170) = 27.06, p < .001, partial [[eta].sup.2] = .14).

Discussion

Experiment 2 was conducted to replicate Experiment 1's findings, as well as determine if a male volunteer applicant who engages in depressed behaviors would be stigmatized relative to a control. Consistent with Experiment 1, the results of Experiment 2 demonstrate that the volunteer applicant (regardless of gender) who exhibited depressed behaviors was less likely to be hired, rated as less hirable and less appropriate for social tasks, held in a lower esteem, and held at a greater social distance than the applicant who did not exhibit depressed behaviors. The volunteer applicant's gender did not moderate the depression-rejection relationship in this context.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUDING DISCUSSION

The connection between depression and rejection is well established. Research has demonstrated that depressed individuals are rejected in friendship (Coyne, 1976; Strack & Coyne, 1983), employee selection (Koser et al., 1999; Pearson et al., 2003) and promotion situations (Bordieri & Drehmer, 1997). The goal of the present study was to expand upon this existing body of research by evaluating whether individuals exhibiting behaviors characteristic of depression are rejected in volunteer selection situations, and whether gender moderates the depression-rejection relationship in this context. Consistent with the literature and the majority of the hypotheses, the volunteer applicant in both Experiment 1 and 2 who exhibited depressed behaviors was less likely to be hired, rated as less hirable and less appropriate for social tasks, held in a lower esteem, and held at a greater social distance than the applicant who did not exhibit depressed behaviors. The gender of the volunteer applicant did not affect the participants' evaluation of the applicant. From this point forward, the applicant who exhibited depressed behaviors will be referred to as the "depressed applicant," and the applicant who did not engage in these behaviors will be referred to as the "non-depressed applicant."

Since non-profit organizations are essentially getting a service at no cost by hiring volunteers, it was hypothesized that both the depressed and non-depressed applicant would be hired to the volunteer position and that rejection would be manifested in other ways. Contrary to this hypothesis, the results of both Experiment 1 and 2 demonstrated that the proportion of participants in the depressed behaviors condition who hired the applicant was significantly less than the proportion of participants in the non-depressed behaviors condition. These results highlight the strength of the depression-rejection relationship such that even when the financial costs are minimal or nonexistent, individuals exhibiting depressive behaviors may be denied the opportunity to volunteer.

Although there was a significant difference between the number of participants who hired the applicant in the depressed behaviors and non-depressed behaviors conditions in both experiments, it is important to note that the depressed applicant was, in fact, hired by 60.9% of participants assigned to that condition in Experiment 1, and 58.7% of participants hired the depressed applicants in Experiment 2. However, compared to the non-depressed applicant(s) who was hired by almost all of the participants assigned to that condition (95.7% for Experiment 1; 85% for Experiment 2), it is clear that individuals (regardless of their gender) who exhibit depressive behaviors are more likely to experience rejection in volunteer selection situations than people who do not exhibit these behaviors.

There are several possible explanations for why the depressed applicant was not hired to the volunteer position. First, and in accordance with Lewinsohn's interpersonal theory of depression, it may be that the depressed applicant was rejected based on the depressive behaviors he or she exhibited in the video-clip. These behaviors included minimal eye contact, long pause duration, flat affect, low speech rate, and low speech volume. The results of the manipulation check in both Experiment 1 and 2 indicate that the participants were able to identify the depressive behaviors, especially minimal eye contact and flat affect, which could have contributed to their rejection of the applicant. Other possible evidence of this explanation is demonstrated through participants' responses to Experiment 1's open-ended question "What conditions would be necessary for you to hire the applicant?" Specifically, 7 of the 17 participants who responded to this question stated that they would have hired her if she was more enthusiastic/energetic/happy, perhaps indicating that the applicant lacked certain social skills.

Of note, compared to the depressed condition, participants assigned to the non-depressed condition in both Experiment 1 and 2 did a relatively poor job of identifying the presence of smiling and eye contact. This could be due to the fact that the degree of the applicant's smiling and eye contact was perceived to be normative and therefore was not particularly noticeable and/or memorable. Additionally, the evaluative nature and the potential serious consequences of a job interview may demand a more "serious" demeanor than other situations; perhaps only excessive smiling is noticeable, and could lead to rejection.

Future research should examine which specific depressive behavior (or interaction of behaviors) elicits rejection, taking into account that participants in this study were most aware of the depressed applicant's tendency to make minimal eye contact and to have a flat affect. It may be that a single form of depressive behavior is unable to elicit rejection (e.g., minimal eye contact), and that rejection stems from an interaction of depressive behaviors (e.g., minimal eye contact and flat affect). Because the depressed applicant engaged in five depressive behaviors throughout the interview, it is impossible to know whether rejection stemmed from a certain behavior or an interaction of all (or some) of the depressive behaviors. It is also unknown to what extent the manner in which the depressed behaviors were expressed affected the rejection. Would the degree of rejection be similar if the depressed behaviors occurred less frequently or were less recognizable? Would the differences observed be widened if the behaviors were more noticeable or more frequent? The fact that a percentage of participants failed to correctly identify the depressive behaviors suggests the strength of this study's manipulation falls somewhere between too subtle and blatantly obvious. Future research should identify the point at which each of the depressive behaviors is of sufficient intensity to elicit rejection from the public. Despite the inability to isolate the specific cause and the inability to precisely determine the relative strength of the depressed behaviors, this is the first known study to use an experimental design to manipulate depressive behaviors in order to understand their role in discrimination. It should be noted that individuals who have poor social skills but are not depressed could behave similarly. Thus, the participants' negative evaluation of the depressed applicant may be due to the stigma associated with poor social skills rather than depression (Youngren & Lewinsohn, 1980).

Another possible explanation for why the depressed applicant was not hired to the volunteer position is that the depressive behaviors could have led to a "lay diagnosis" of depression and the subsequent labeling of the applicant as being "depressed." This label may have triggered the participants' prejudicial attitudes and negative beliefs about people with depression, or in a more general sense, people with mental illness. For example, research demonstrates that the public believes mentally ill individuals are dangerous (Link, Phelan, Bresnahan, Stueve, & Pescosolido, 1999), responsible for their illness (Martin, Pescosolido, & Tuck, 2000), and are socially inappropriate and unpredictable (Socall & Holtgraves, 1992). Consequently, activation of this schema might have negatively influenced the participants' decisions to hire (more specifically, not hire) the depressed applicant for the volunteer position. This study provides initial experimental evidence that an official diagnosis (label) is not necessary to elicit rejection.

In addition to being denied the opportunity to volunteer, the depressed applicant was rated as less hireable than the non-depressed applicant, which might be indicative of the volunteer coordinators' perceptions of the applicant's ability to perform certain tasks. In fact, across both experiments the results indicated that social tasks were perceived to be significantly less appropriate for the depressed applicant compared to the non-depressed applicant, suggesting that individuals exhibiting depressive behaviors are discriminated against by being designated to tasks that are non-social in nature. Finally, the participants held the depressed applicant in lower esteem and were less willing to interact with him or her compared to the non-depressed applicant. Consistent with the decision to hire, these results may be attributed to the depressive behaviors, the depressed "label" participants may have assigned to the applicant and/or some other factor(s).

One particularly significant finding is that, in comparison to the non-depressed applicant, the depressed applicant was deemed appropriate to complete non-social tasks and less appropriate to complete social tasks. It is important to consider two possible explanations when interpreting the results of the Task Appropriateness Survey. First, impaired social skills have been found to be associated with depression (Segrin, 2000), and as such, depressed individuals engage in behaviors that are aversive to others (i.e., minimal eye contact, flat affect, etc.). It could be that volunteer coordinators were less willing to assign the depressed applicant to tasks that require a large amount of social skills (i.e., greeting people, answering questions and providing information to the public, and directing visitors/volunteers to specific destinations), as the applicant would likely perform these tasks poorly and could possibly tarnish the non-profit organization's reputation.

It is also possible that volunteer coordinators assigned a "depressed" label to the applicant, causing any negative beliefs they may have about depressed people to surface. For example, research illustrates that the public views depressed individuals as potentially dangerous and capable of arousing negative emotions in others (Peluso & Blay, 2009). Given the nature of these beliefs, it is understandable why, in comparison to the non-depressed applicant, volunteer coordinators might rate the depressed applicant as more appropriate for tasks that require minimal social interaction. Additionally, the public desires social distance from depressed individuals, which can be achieved by assigning them to non-social tasks.

In conclusion, this research illustrates that individuals (regardless of their gender) exhibiting depressive behaviors may be rejected in volunteer selection situations. These findings have several important implications for psychologists and depressed individuals.

For psychologists, these results suggest that incorporating volunteer activity into therapeutic interventions for depressed individuals may be exposing them to yet another situation where they are rejected, possibly retarding their treatment. As the association between volunteering and reduced depressive symptoms varies by age (Li & Ferraro, 2006; Lum & Lightfoot, 2005; Musick & Wilson, 2003) and gender (Ahern & Hendryx, 2008), psychologists should therefore assess the risks (rejection or social isolation) versus benefits of recommending volunteer activity on a case-by-case basis.

That said, there are volunteer organizations that have less rigorous selection criteria (i.e., no in-person or phone interview) where psychologists could refer their depressed clients, minimizing the possibility of rejection. It should be noted, however, that most (if not all) people experience rejection throughout their lives and learn skills to cope with these situations over time. Thus, psychologists should avoid fragilizing their depressed clients by assuming that they cannot cope with being rejected in volunteer selection situations. In the event of rejection from a volunteer site, a psychologist can teach, discuss and/or practice coping strategies with his/her client.

For depressed individuals, this research provides evidence that certain depressive behaviors, particularly minimal eye contact and flat affect, elicit rejection from others. Changing these behaviors may enable individuals with depression to reduce social rejection. Psychologists should educate their depressed clients about this and other depression-rejection research. For example, psychologists could reference Lewinsohn's interpersonal theory of depression and its supporting research (Dalley et al., 1994; McCann & Lalonde, 1993; Youngren & Lewinsohn, 1980), which illustrates that depressed individuals' social skills deficits elicit rejection from the public. After depressed individuals understand this relationship, psychologists could provide them with the appropriate social skills training. Throughout this information-giving and skills training process, the depressed person could apply to volunteer organizations that have less rigorous selection criteria, and assuming they are accepted, they could practice their social skills in their volunteer position.

Due to the fact that this study used an experimental design, there are inherently concerns about external validity. For example, a male and female enacting a depressed role were used in the video-clips rather than actual depressed individuals. In addition, to ensure standardization, the study's interviews were likely more structured than an actual volunteer interview, as the interviewer asked a series of questions and avoided unstructured dialogue. Finally, the participants in this study watched a video-taped interview, whereas "real world" volunteer interviews are typically face-to-face or conducted over the phone, which again enables unstructured dialogue. Despite the aforementioned concerns, efforts were made to maximize the study's external validity. For example, the interview questions were based on actual questions used by an international non-profit organization, the volunteer application was created using the United Way volunteer application as a guide, and the sample in Experiment 1 consisted of people who are responsible for making "real world" volunteer selection decisions (i.e., volunteer coordinators).

An additional "real world" limitation of this study is that a hypothetical situation was utilized in which the participants did not have to say "yes" or "no" to an actual person. As a result, it could be that the participants simply found it easier to say "no." It could also be that the participants (and their respective non-profit agencies) were not in need of volunteers, making it easier to deny the applicant the opportunity to volunteer. Regardless, both the lack of pressures associated with face-to-face rejection and the potential lack of need for volunteers should have been equivalent across the non-depressed and depressed conditions and are thus unable to account for differences between the conditions.

Limitations of the study also include the generalizability of the results (to non-respondents), as well as the relative ethnic homogeneity of the participants across experiments. Despite these concerns, the potential of selection bias was eliminated via random assignment. Additionally, although the lack of gender diversity in Experiment 1 might be construed as a limitation of the study, a majority of volunteer coordinators are, in fact, women (Syndicate PayScale Data, 2011). Even more, Experiment 2 had a more representative sample in terms of gender. Another limitation is that, although the interview/personal interaction is an influential aspect of the selection process, it is often one of many determinants in terms of securing a volunteer position.

Volunteering can be therapeutic in and of itself, as research demonstrates that volunteer work is associated with many mental health benefits (Borgonovi, 2008; Li & Ferraro, 2006; Lum & Lightfoot, 2005; Musick & Wilson, 2003; Thoits & Hewitt, 2001). As such, practicing psychologists often incorporate volunteer activity into therapeutic interventions. Our study suggests that it is important to help depressed individuals improve their social skills so that they are not at a disadvantage during volunteer interviews. After all, volunteering is an outlet where depressed individuals can help themselves by helping others.

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Lauren J. Feria, Christian M. End and Lauren B. Yadlosky Xavier University

Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Dr. Lauren J. Feria, Dept. of Psychology, 214 Elet Hall ML 6511, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH 45207
TABLE 1 Percent of Participants in the Depressed & Non-depressed
Conditions who Correctly Identified the Absence/Presence of
Certain Applicant Behaviors in Experiment 1

Variable                         Depressed   Non-Depressed    Total

Little eye contact with            100.0         63.3         82.2
  interviewer
Long pause duration                71.7          90.9         81.1
Low speech volume                  62.2          79.6         70.8
Talked slowly                      65.2          68.2         66.7
Smiled a lot with interviewer       100          29.6         65.6

TABLE 2 Means and Standard Deviations for Depressed &
Non-depressed Conditions in Experiment 1

Variable                                 Depressed      Non-Depressed

Hireability                             4.65(1.77) *      7.43(1.26)
Appropriateness for Non-Social Tasks    13.80(3.52)      14.30(4.30)
Appropriateness for Social Tasks        8.33(4.33) *     17.83(2.24)
Esteem of the Applicant                28.52(4.03) *     34.07(3.12)
Willingness to Interact                31.17(8.34) *     39.26(6.26)

Note: * Indicates significant differences between conditions at
p < .001.

TABLE 3 Percent of Participants in the Depressed & Non-depressed
Conditions who Correctly Identified the
Absence/Presence of the Male & Female Applicants'
Behaviors in Experiment 2

                            Female Applicant        Male Applicant
Variable
                           Dep.      Non-Dep.      Dep.      Non-Dep.

Little eye contact         96.4        53.5        93.6        65.0
Long pause duration        85.5        80.0        89.4        92.5
Low speech volume          80.0        60.0        85.1        85.0
Talked slowly              83.6        76.7        83.0        85.0
Smiled a lot               94.5        23.3       100.0        25.0

                                 Total
Variable
                           Dep.      Non-Dep.

Little eye contact         95.0        59.3
Long pause duration        87.5        86.3
Low speech volume          82.6        72.5
Talked slowly              83.3        80.9
Smiled a lot               97.3        24.2

TABLE 4 Means & Standard Deviations for Depressed & Non-depressed
Conditions in Experiment 2

                             Female Applicant         Male Applicant
Variable
                           Dep.         Non-Dep.          Dep.

Hireability             5.61(2.30)     6.69(1.51)       6.33(1.69)
Appropriateness        14.39(3.67)    13.90(3.51)      15.09(3.72)
for Non-Social
Tasks
Appropriateness        10.37(5.00)    16.03(9.40)      10.87(4.91)
for Social Tasks
Esteem of              27.52(4.41)    31.52(4.52)      29.07(4.12)
Applicant
Willingness to         27.44(9.72)    35.93(10.58)     32.00(8.37)
Interact

                       Male Applicant              Total
Variable
                          Non-Dep.           Dep.         Non-Dep.

Hireability               7.35(1.48)      5.95(2.06) *    7.07(1.52)
Appropriateness          14.18(4.19)     14.72(3.69)     14.06(3.90)
for Non-Social
Tasks
Appropriateness          17.08(3.25)     10.60(4.94) *   16.64(6.53)
for Social Tasks
Esteem of                33.40(3.75)     28.23(4.33) *   32.61(4.16)
Applicant
Willingness to           39.03(8.99)     29.53(9.36) *   37.72(9.73)
Interact

Note: * Indicates significant differences between depressed and
non-depressed conditions at p < .001.
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Author:Feria, Lauren J.; End, Christian M.; Yadlosky, Lauren B.
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Date:Jun 1, 2014
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