Examining the mechanisms of overgeneral autobiographical memory: Capture and rumination, and impaired executive control

Jennifer A. Sumner, James W. Griffith, Susan Mineka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) is an important cognitive phenomenon in depression, but questions remain regarding the underlying mechanisms. The CaR-FA-X model (Williams et al., 2007) proposes three mechanisms that may contribute to OGM, but little work has examined the possible additive and/or interactive effects among them. We examined two mechanisms of CaR-FA-X: capture and rumination, and impaired executive control. We analysed data from undergraduates (N = 109) scoring high or low on rumination who were presented with cues of high and low self-relevance on the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT). Executive control was operationalised as performance on both the Stroop Colour-Word Task and the Controlled Oral Word Association Test (COWAT). Hierarchical generalised linear modelling was used to predict whether participants would generate a specific memory on a trial of the AMT. Higher COWAT scores, lower rumination, and greater cue self-relevance predicted a higher probability of a specific memory. There was also a rumination × cue self-relevance interaction: Higher (vs lower) rumination was associated with a lower probability of a specific memory primarily for low self-relevant cues. We found no evidence of interactions between these mechanisms. Findings are interpreted with respect to current autobiographical memory models. Future directions for OGM mechanism research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-183
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Autobiographical memory specificity
  • Car-fa-x model
  • Executive control
  • Overgeneral autobiographical memory
  • References
  • Rumination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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