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Recalling positive self-defining memories in depression: The impact of processing mode

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Recalling positive memories is a powerful and effective way to improve mood. However, unlike never-depressed individuals, those with current or past depression do not benefit emotionally from positive memory recall. To examine whether rumination is involved in this difficulty, 80 participants (26 currently depressed, 29 recovered depressed, and 25 never depressed) were instructed to recall a positive self-defining memory while in a sad mood. They were then instructed to think about their memory, adopting either an abstract or concrete processing mode. Never-depressed and recovered depressed participants experienced improved mood after memory recall, regardless of processing mode. However, for depressed individuals neither an abstract nor a concrete processing mode produced emotional benefit. These findings suggest that a complex relationship exists among processing mode, memory type, and depressive status, and indicate that the way in which individuals process positive emotional material may have important consequences for treatment.
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Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Depression; Processing mode; Rumination

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: July 4, 2014

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