Previous research has shown that, compared with a rumination induction, a brief distraction procedure reduces overgeneral autobiographical memory in depression. The authors investigated whether this effect depends on reductions in analytic thinking or reductions in self-focus. Focus of attention (high vs. low self-focus) and thinking style (high vs. low analytical thinking) were independently manipulated in depressed patients in a 2 x 2 design. Autobiographical recall was measured pre- and postmanipulation. Thinking style significantly affected overgeneral memory, whereas focus of attention significantly affected despondent mood. Reducing analytical self-focus reduced overgeneral memory, suggesting that high levels of naturally occurring ruminative analytic thinking may be important in the maintenance of overgeneral memory. Overgeneral memory in depression may be associated with chronic ruminative attempts to make sense of current or past difficulties.
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