Memory specificity in depression : the effects of self versus other referent focus
Master of Arts
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
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A number of studies have found that individuals with past or current depression are poor at recalling specific autobiographical memories (e.g., Brittlebank, Scott, Williams, & Ferrier, 1993; Williams & Dritschel, 1988; Williams & Scott, 1988; Williams, 1996). The affect regulation hypothesis (Williams, 1996) proposed to underlie the lack of specific autobiographical memories, as well as evidence from research on the negative memory biases associated with depression, suggests that self-focus enforced by the self-referent nature of autobiographical memory may moderate memory specificity in depressed individuals. This study aimed to (a) replicate previous findings regarding the overgeneral memory bias in depression, (b) empirically examine the effect of focus in the overgeneral autobiographical memory bias and, (c) explore the relationship between depressive symptom severity and memory specificity in individuals who have never been depressed. In the present study 11 either formerly or currently depressed and 47 never-depressed female undergraduate volunteers were asked to recall specific self-referent and other-referent memories in a positively and negatively toned cue word paradigm. A nonsignificant trend was observed that depressed individuals tend to report fewer speciGc selfreferent memones than those who have never been depressed. Furthermore, memory speciGcity increased only among parGcipants with past or current diagnosed depression when they were cued to retrieve memories about other people rather than about themselves. Regression analysis of memories in both the entire study sample as well as among only those who have never experienced depression revealed that neither depressive symptoms severity nor global selfesteem predicted memory speciGcity. Results are discussed with respect to the affect regulaGon hypothesis and implicaGons of present Gndings for the Geatment of depression.