Ruminative tendencies to think repetitively about negative events, like retrieval practice in laboratory experiments, should enhance long-term recall. To evaluate this claim, ruminators and non-ruminators learned positive, negative, and neutral adjective-noun pairs. Following each of four study phases, “practice” participants attempted cued recall of nouns from positive or negative pairs; study-only participants performed a filler task. Half the pairs of each valence were tested after the learning cycles, and all pairs were tested a week later. Large practice effects were found on both tests, even though ruminators showed a trait-congruent bias in recalling unpracticed negative pairs on the immediate test. Positive practice also improved the moods of ruminators. Thus, repetitive positive retrieval shows promise in counteracting ruminative recall and its consequences.
Hertel, P., Amaris, M., Cottle, J., & Vrijsen, R. (in press). Cognitive bias modification: Retrieval practice to simulate and oppose ruminative memory biases. Clinical Psychological Science.
Clinical Psychological Science