Referential focus moderates depression-linked attentional avoidance of positive information

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Abstract

While there is consensus that depression is associated with a memory bias characterized by reduced retrieval of positive information that is restricted to information that had been self-referentially processed, there is less agreement concerning whether depression is characterized by an attention bias involving reduced attention to positive information. However, unlike memory research, previous attention research has not systematically examined the potential role of referential processing focus. The present study tested the hypothesis that evidence of depression-linked attentional avoidance of positive information would be more readily obtained following the self-referential processing of such information. We assessed attentional responding to positive information (and also to negative information) using a dot-probe procedure, after this information had been processed either in a self-referential or other-referential manner. The findings lend support to the hypothesis under scrutiny. Participants scoring high in depression score exhibited reduced attention to positive information compared to those scoring low in depression score, but only when this information had been processed in a self-referential manner. These findings may shed light on the mechanisms that underpin attentional selectivity in depression, while potentially also helping to account for inconsistencies in previous literature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-54
Number of pages8
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Volume93
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017

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