Idiographic Autobiographical Memories in Major Depressive Disorder

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When cued with generic happy and sad words, depressed individuals have been found to articulate contextually impoverished, overgeneral memories of both positive and negative autobiographical events. The current study tested whether overgeneral memory is observed outside of the cue-word paradigm. Currently depressed, formerly depressed, and never-depressed controls underwent an idiographic interview procedure in which participants generated memories of their happiest and saddest lifetime events. Although depressed and nondepressed participants did not differ with respect to the specificity, retrieval difficulty, and emotionality of their saddest memories, depressed individuals' happiest memories were less specific, harder to retrieve, and less emotional than were nondepressed participants' happiest memories. The memory characteristics of formerly depressed participants largely resembled those of healthy controls. Overall, the present results suggest that meaningful cues trigger mood-congruent memory processing in currently, but not in formerly, depressed individuals.

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Cognition and Emotion, v. 20, issue 1, p. 114-128