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In a Ted talk (YouTube), Andrew Solomon says

There was a study I particularly liked, in which a group of depressed and a group of non-depressed people were asked to play a video game for an hour, and at the end of the hour they were asked how many little monsters they thought they had killed. The depressive group was usually accurate to within about 10%. And the non-depressed people guessed between 15 and 20 times as many little monsters as they had actually killed.

The claim is repeated at andrewsolomon.com, but I could not find a source. Basically, I want to know if this study actually exists and the observations are reported accurately.

Question: Did depressed people far more accurately estimate how many monsters they killed in a video game?

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    So, that person who is a real drag to be around is someone you'd want on your team when the Zombie Apocalypse comes. ("I think we got them all. It's Miller Time!!" "No..... there's still a dozen of them behind that door.") – PoloHoleSet Jul 8 at 16:01
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In addition to the two versions of the claim in the question, the claim is repeated here by Andrew Solomon. I could not find other instances of the claim online. The article seems to have been presented at the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) Alliance for Research Progress Meeting.

I was particularly taken by a study in which a group of depressed people and a group of nondepressed people were given a video game for an hour and then were asked how many little monsters they thought they had killed. The depressed people were by and large accurate to within eight or nine percent. And the nondepressed people guessed between eight and twelve times as many little monsters as they had actually killed (see Taylor, 1989).

In the references, "Taylor, 1989" (the cited source) is presented as:

Taylor, S. E. (1989), Positive Illusions. New York: Basic Books.

This is a reference to Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind, published by Shelley Taylor. (Thanks for correcting me, @ruakh.) I have tried searching the online Google Book for various keywords, without obtaining relevant results. I have also accessed a print version of the book, and flipped around to places where I think the study might be mentioned. I have not found the study. The contents and main idea of the book do not seem that related to the results and implications of the study (that depressed people can more accurately view the world).

I also looked at Taylor's journal articles and none fit the description of the study. Taylor didn't study depression that much (if at all) and instead focused on the more social aspects of psychology. There is only one mention of "depress[ion]" in the title of her journal articles — Early family environment, current adversity, the serotonin transporter polymorphism, and depressive symptomatology (2006).

In addition, I emailed Taylor (author of the book). She did not remember this study and additionally confirmed what I suspected.

The study [you] are referring to was not done by our lab.

I am starting to doubt the source and am still waiting on a reply by Solomon. Why not cite the study or the author of the study? Why cite a 301 page book instead? So that it's almost impossible to eliminate this book as the original source? Why aren't there more stories of this study online?

Did depressed people far more accurately estimate how many monsters they killed in a video game?

What I know so far is the author of the cited source doesn't remember and didn't perform the study. I also cannot directly confirm the source from the person making the claim.

The previous version of the answer incorrectly focused on the WHO.

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    I have also emailed Andrew Solomon to confirm the study/citations. – Barry Harrison Jul 6 at 7:32
  • The article's bibliography contains references to other papers by Taylor, maybe this experiment was described in one of them. – Barmar Jul 6 at 17:26
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    "Taylor, S. E. (1989), Positive Illusions. New York: Basic Books" surely denotes Shelley E. Taylor's 1989 book Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind: the author, year, title, and publisher are all correct. The book is available in many libraries, as well as on Amazon.com. The book probably cites a specific paper for this claim. – ruakh Jul 6 at 18:36
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    The Taylor citation and the WHO citation are separate references. The Taylor citation is a complete and correct citation to a specific book (that indeed exists); presumably you'd need to check there to follow up on this. – JaS Jul 6 at 18:39
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    Further more this article psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression explaining what exactly depression is. Read this gives me the understanding that is quite difficult to allocate such groups of depressed and non-depressed people. – Stefanos Zilellis Jul 9 at 10:33

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