Intentional forgetting in depressed states

Noreen, Saima (2010). Intentional forgetting in depressed states. PHD thesis, Aston University.

Abstract

The aim of this thesis was to extend previous research on intentional forgetting in depressed states. The first experiment used the think/no-think paradigm, and found that although dysphoric individuals were significantly worse at suppressing emotional (positive and negative) words than non-dysphoric individuals, both groups were unsuccessful at direct thought suppression. However, there was no effect of rumination on dysphoric individuals' ability to intentionally forget material. Furthermore, there was also no group differences in attentional measures of Stroop and IDEO. The second experiment involved modifying the TNT task, by including the use of substitute words in the suppression phase, in order to determine whether recalling substitute words during suppression would increase the level of forgetting. The findings from the study revealed that both dysphoric and non-dysphoric individuals were successful at intentionally forgetting neutral words using a thought substitution strategy. However, both groups were impaired at suppressing words in the direct thought substitution condition. The third experiment investigated the influence of thought substitution on intentional forgetting of emotional words in dysphoria. The study replicated experiment two, but used emotional (i.e. positive and depression-relevant) words instead of neutral words. The study found that dysphoric individuals were still impaired in their ability to suppress emotional material. Furthermore, dysphoric individuals were recalling significantly more depression­ relevant respond and previously-suppressed words. The fourth experiment examined the role of executive control in intentional forgetting. In the study, dysphoric and non­ dysphoric participants were categorised as having good or poor executive control based on their scores on the operation span with words task (OSPAN). The study found that non-dysphoric individuals with good control demonstrated successful suppression. However, dysphoric individuals with good control were unsuccessful at suppression. The fifth experiment investigated whether experimentally induced changes in mood state would alter an individual's ability to intentionally forget emotional material. Non-dysphoric healthy participants were given a positive or negative autobiographical memory and music mood induction. They completed two modified think/no-think tasks, one prior to the mood induction and one after the mood induction. The study found that transient negative mood state impaired intentional forgetting of depression-relevant material. Summary: Taken together, the findings suggest that individuals in a depressed mood are impaired in their ability to intentionally forget emotional material, even with the use of a thought substitution strategy. Furthermore, the findings implicate poor executive control and negative mood state in impaired intentional forgetting. An important theme emerging from the findings was the role of an inhibitory mechanism in intentional forgetting. The findings reported in this thesis suggest that thought substitution involves engaging an inhibitory control mechanism that contributes to successful intentional forgetting. The findings have clear implications on depressed individuals everyday functioning, and suggest that even with the presence of effective distraction, dysphoric indivduals are imapired in their ability to suppress emotional material. Furthermore, it is suggested that impaired intentional forgetting of emotional material may contribute to the maintenance of depressed mood, and could potentially worsen ongoing depression.

Divisions: Life & Health Sciences
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Institution: Aston University
Uncontrolled Keywords: intentional forgetting,depressed states
Completed Date: 2010-06-22
Authors: Noreen, Saima

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