Failures to retrieve specific memories in previously depressed individuals: random errors or content-related?
Barnhofer T., Crane C., Spinhoven P., Williams JMG.
Failures to retrieve specific memories have been related to general tendencies to commit errors in executive functioning tasks, raising the question of whether they are simply a reflection of randomly occurring lapses in cognitive control or whether their occurrence is in any way related to memory content. This study investigated the relation between failures to retrieve specific autobiographical memories and dysfunctional attitudes in individuals at risk for depression and controls. Sixteen previously depressed and 19 never-depressed participants were assessed for dysfunctional attitudes regarding "need for approval" and "performance evaluation". One week later, they were asked to generate specific memories following dependency- and achievement-related cue words, both under single and dual task conditions. In previously depressed participants, dysfunctional attitudes regarding "need for approval" significantly predicted specificity for dependency-related events under dual task conditions. The findings provide qualified support for a role of content and demonstrate how, in previously depressed individuals, content effects can surface when cognitive control is undermined.