Self-discrepancy and reduced autobiographical memory specificity in ruminating students and depressed patients

Hanne Schoofs*, Dirk Hermans, James W. Griffith, Filip Raes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This work uses self-discrepancies as a unifying framework to understand the relationship between autobiographical memory specificity (AMS) and components of rumination (reflection and brooding). Rumination can be triggered by the awareness of a discrepancy between one's current state of being and one's desired state of being. Such discrepancies may partly underlie the phenomenon of reduced AMS (a.k.a. overgeneral memory), which is a phenomenon of great clinical importance especially for depression. The aim of the present studies was to experimentally investigate the impact of a self-discrepancy manipulation on AMS in a student sample (Study 1) and in a depressed sample (Study 2). Results failed to reveal a direct effect of a self-discrepancy manipulation on AMS, but in both studies, actual-ideal discrepancies interacted with the reflection component of rumination with respect to memory specificity. In the self-discrepancy condition, there was a negative association between reflection and change in AMS: Higher reflection was associated with a greater decrease in AMS from pre- to post-testing. The results of these two studies suggest that the interplay between components of rumination and self-discrepancy has an effect on memory specificity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-262
Number of pages18
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Depression
  • Overgeneral memory
  • Rumination
  • Self-discrepancy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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