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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1998 Jul;75(1):166-77.

Effects of ruminative and distracting responses to depressed mood on retrieval of autobiographical memories.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside 92521, USA.


Four studies explored the effects of self-focused rumination vs. distraction on dysphoric and nondysphoric students' retrieval of autobiographical memories. Dysphorics induced to ruminate subsequently recalled more negatively biased autobiographical memories in free recall (Study 1) and in response to prompts for memories (Study 2) than either dysphorics who first distracted themselves from their mood or nondysphoric controls. In Study 3, dysphoric rumination led students to recall negative events as occurring relatively frequently in their lives and positive events as occurring relatively infrequently. In Study 4, judges scored transcripts of participants' thoughts as expressed aloud while engaging in rumination or distraction. Codings revealed that dysphoric ruminators spontaneously generated memories that were more negative than those of the other three groups. Implications of a ruminative response style for progress in therapy, as well as for enhancing dysphoria and negatively biased cognitive processes, are discussed.

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