Decentring and distraction reduce overgeneral autobiographical memory in depression
University of Exeter (Watkins). At the time of publication, the author was at the Institute of Psychiatry, London
Cambridge University Press
Background. Increased recall of categorical autobiographical memories is a phenomenon unique to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and is associated with a poor prognosis for depression. Although the elevated recall of categorical memories does not change on remission from depression, recent findings suggest that overgeneral memory may be reduced by cognitive interventions and maintained by rumination. This study tested whether cognitive manipulations could influence the recall of categorical memories in dysphoric participants. Methods. Forty-eight dysphoric and depressed participants were randomly allocated to rumination or distraction conditions. Before and after the manipulation, participants completed the Autobiographical Memory Test, a standard measure of overgeneral memory. Participants were then randomized to either a ‘decentring’ question (Socratic questions designed to facilitate viewing moods within a wider perspective) or a control question condition, before completing the Autobiographical Memory Test again. Results. Distraction produced significantly greater decreases in the proportion of memories retrieved that were categorical than rumination. Decentring questions produced significantly greater decreases in the proportion of memories retrieved that were categorical than control questions, with this effect independent of the prior manipulation. Conclusions. Elevated categorical memory in depression is more modifiable than has been previously assumed; it may reflect the dynamic maintenance of a cognitive style that can be interrupted by brief cognitive interventions.
© Cambridge University Press 2000. Reprinted with permission.
Psychological Medicine, 2000, 30 (4), 911-920