Memories connected to ruminative concerns repetitively capture attention, even in situations designed to alter them. However, recent research on memory updating suggests that memory for benign substitutes (e.g., reinterpretations) might be facilitated by integration with the ruminative memories. As a first approach, two experiments (Ns = 72) mimicked rumination-related memories with rumination-themed stimuli and an imagery task. College undergraduates screened for ruminative status first studied and imaged ruminative cue-target word pairs, and then in a second phase they studied the same cues re-paired with benign targets (along with new and repeated pairs). On the test of cued recall of benign targets, they judged whether each recalled word had been repeated or changed across the two phases (or was new in the second phase). When target changes were not remembered, recall of benign targets revealed proactive interference that was insensitive to ruminative status. However, when participants remembered change and the ruminative targets, their recall of benign targets was facilitated, particularly if they identified as ruminators (Experiment 1). When the test simply asked for recall of either or both targets (Experiment 2), ruminators recalled both targets more frequently than did others. These outcomes suggest that ruminative memories might provide bridges to remembering associated benign memories, such as reinterpretations, under conditions consistent with everyday ruminative retrieval.
Hertel, P. T., Wahlheim, C. N., Price, W. A., Crusius, E. M., Patino, C. L. (2023). Stuck in the past? Rumination-related memory integration. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 163, Article 104287. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2023.104287
Behaviour Research and Therapy