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Clin Psychol Rev. 2018 Jul;63:56-65. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2018.06.001. Epub 2018 Jun 11.

Shedding light on the association between repetitive negative thinking and deficits in cognitive control - A meta-analysis.

Author information

1
Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address: u.zetsche@fu-berlin.de.
2
University of Münster, Department of Statistics, Faculty of Psychology, Münster, Germany.
3
Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Berlin, Germany.

Abstract

Individuals who experience recurrent negative thoughts are at elevated risk for mood and anxiety disorders. It is thus essential to understand why some individuals get stuck in recurrent negative thinking (RNT), whereas others are able to disengage eventually. Theoretical models propose that individuals high in recurrent negative thinking suffer from deficits in controlling the contents of working memory. Empirical findings, however, are inconclusive. In this meta-analysis, we synthesize findings from 94 studies to examine the proposed association between RNT and deficits in cognitive control. We included numerous effect sizes not reported in the primary publications. Moderator analyses tested the influence of variables, such as stimuli valence, cognitive control function (e.g., shifting, discarding), or type of RNT (i.e., rumination or worry). Results demonstrated an association between repetitive negative thinking and deficits in only one specific cognitive control function, namely difficulty discarding no longer relevant material from working memory (r = -0.20). This association remained significant after controlling for level of psychopathology. There was no substantial association between RNT and deficits in any other cognitive control function. All other moderators were not significant. We discuss limitations (e.g., primary sample sizes, reliability of paradigms) and highlight implications for future research and clinical interventions.

KEYWORDS:

Cognitive control; Discarding; Inhibition; Repetitive negative thinking; Rumination; Worry

PMID:
29913351
DOI:
10.1016/j.cpr.2018.06.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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