Background and objectives: It has been suggested that impaired attentional control (AC) promotes the use of maladaptive emotional regulation strategies, such as rumination, with subsequent increase in risk of depression. Method: This study examined this hypothesis in a healthy community sample. Questionnaire measures of depression, anxiety, rumination and self-reported AC (shifting and focusing) were used, as well as an attention performance task (Attention Network Task; ANT). Results: While self-report and performance measures of AC were not significantly related, both depression and rumination were associated with reduced self-reported AC. Depression was specifically associated with poorer attentional shifting. Depression and brooding were also associated with better performance on the conflict component of the ANT. Importantly, the relationships of ANT conflict and self-reported AC to depression were mediated by brooding. Limitations: The current study used a community sample, and it is unclear if results would generalise to a clinical population. All measures were taken concurrently and so it is not possible to confidently ascertain causality or direction of effects. Conclusions: These results are consistent with the suggestion that impaired AC, particularly a narrow and inflexible attentional focus, may increase risk of depression by promoting ruminative thinking. The results highlight the importance of considering both self-report and performance measures of AC, as well as different components of attentional performance.
DeJong, H., Fox, E., & Stein, A. (2019). Does rumination mediate the relationship between attentional control and symptoms of depression? Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 63, 28–35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbtep.2018.12.007