Trait rumination and response to negative evaluative lab-induced stress: neuroendocrine, affective, and cognitive outcomes

Suzanne Vrshek-Schallhorn*, Elizabeth A. Velkoff, Richard E. Zinbarg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Theoretical models of depression posit that, under stress, elevated trait rumination predicts more pronounced or prolonged negative affective and neuroendocrine responses, and that trait rumination hampers removing irrelevant negative information from working memory. We examined several gaps regarding these models in the context of lab-induced stress. Non-depressed undergraduates completed a rumination questionnaire and either a negative-evaluative Trier Social Stress Test (n = 55) or a non-evaluative control condition (n = 69), followed by a modified Sternberg affective working memory task assessing the extent to which irrelevant negative information can be emptied from working memory. We measured shame, negative and positive affect, and salivary cortisol four times. Multilevel growth curve models showed rumination and stress interactively predicted cortisol reactivity; however, opposite predictions, greater rumination was associated with blunted cortisol reactivity to stress. Elevated trait rumination interacted with stress to predict augmented shame reactivity. Rumination and stress did not significantly interact to predict working memory performance, but under control conditions, rumination predicted greater difficulty updating working memory. Results support a vulnerability-stress model of trait rumination with heightened shame reactivity and cortisol dysregulation rather than hyper-reactivity in non-depressed emerging adults, but we cannot provide evidence that working memory processes are critical immediately following acute stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)466-479
Number of pages14
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019


  • Rumination
  • cortisol
  • lab-induced stress
  • multilevel growth curve models
  • shame
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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