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It has been suggested that overgeneral memory (OGM) represents a vulnerability marker for depression [Williams, J. M. G., Barnhofer, T., Crane, C., Hermans, D., Raes, F., Watkins, E., et al. (2007). Autobiographical memory specificity and emotional disorder. Psychological Bulletin, 133, 122-148]. One important underlying mechanism involved is rumination [e.g., Watkins, E., & Teasdale, J. D. (2001). Rumination and overgeneral memory in depression: Effects of self-focus and analytic thinking. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 353-357; Watkins, E., & Teasdale, J. D. (2004). Adaptive and maladaptive self-focus in depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 82, 1-8]. It is as yet unclear to what extent the relationship between rumination and OGM also applies to nonclinical groups. The present study investigated this relationship in a nonclinical student sample, using an innovative sentence completion procedure to assess OGM. As hypothesized, the experimental induction of a concrete, process-focused (or non-ruminative) thinking style (n=102) led to less OGMs as compared to the experimental induction of an abstract, evaluative (or ruminative) thinking style (n=93). The present results add to the accumulating body of evidence that abstract, evaluative (or ruminative) thinking is a crucial underlying process of OGM, and expand prior literature by extending this idea to nonclinical individuals and by using a new procedure to assess OGM.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





748 - 756


Adolescent, Adult, Depressive Disorder, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Mental Processes, Mental Recall, Psychological Tests, Self Concept, Students