Overgeneral autobiographical memory as a predictor of the course of depression: A meta-analysis

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

285 Scopus citations


Overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) is a robust phenomenon in depression, but the extent to which OGM predicts the course of depression is not well-established. This meta-analysis synthesized data from 15 studies to examine the degree to which OGM 1) correlates with depressive symptoms at follow-up, and 2) predicts depressive symptoms at follow-up over and above initial depressive symptoms. Although the effects are small, specific and categoric/overgeneral memories generated during the Autobiographical Memory Test significantly predicted the course of depression. Fewer specific memories and more categoric/overgeneral memories were associated with higher follow-up depressive symptoms, and predicted higher follow-up symptoms over and above initial symptoms. Potential moderators were also examined. The age and clinical depression status of participants, as well as the length of follow-up between the two depressive symptom assessments, significantly moderated the predictive relationship between OGM and the course of depression. The predictive relationship between specific memories and follow-up depressive symptoms became greater with increasing age and a shorter length of follow-up, and the predictive relationship was stronger for participants with clinical depression diagnoses than for nonclinical participants. These findings highlight OGM as a predictor of the course of depression, and future studies should investigate the mechanisms underlying this relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)614-625
Number of pages12
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Autobiographical memory specificity
  • Course of depression
  • Memory specificity
  • Meta-analysis
  • Overgeneral autobiographical memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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