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Br J Clin Psychol. 1998 Sep;37 ( Pt 3):247-57.

Depressive thinking and dysfunctional schematic mental models.

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MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge CB2 2EF, UK.



To examine the replicability and generalizability of findings suggesting that mood-dependent negative thinking in depression reflects changes in the schematic mental models through which the world is interpreted, rather than a generalized increase in accessibility of negative constructs.


Depressed and non-depressed samples were compared on a sentence completion task concerning anticipated outcomes of social approval or success. This task was designed so that the schematic mental models view predicted more positive completions from depressed participants, the construct accessibility view predicting the opposite.


A total of 98 depressed participants (scoring > 15 on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale; CESD) from a depressive self-help organization, and 50 non-depressed controls (CESD < 16) completed the CESD, Sentence Completion Task and the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale (DAS).


Depressed participants made more positive completions in the Sentence Completion Task, and scored higher on the DAS than controls. Subanalyses suggested that the depressed group's increased positive completions were accounted for largely by those currently in psychiatric treatment; these participants also showed greater evidence of dysfunctional schematic models on DAS.


For depressed participants in psychiatric treatment, results replicate previous findings, supporting the view that negative depressive thinking reflects a change in schematic mental models through which the world is interpreted. Results are inconsistent with predictions from the construct accessibility view. The results have methodological implications for the use of the sentence completion task in future studies.

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