Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People with depression get stuck on bad thoughts, unable to turn their attention away, study suggests

Date:
June 3, 2011
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
We all have our ups and downs -- a fight with a friend, a divorce, the loss of a parent. But most of us get over it. Only some go on to develop major depression. Now, a new study suggests part of the reason may be that people with depression get stuck on bad thoughts because they’re unable to turn their attention away.

We all have our ups and downs -- a fight with a friend, a divorce, the loss of a parent. But most of us get over it. Only some go on to develop major depression. Now, a new study, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests part of the reason may be that people with depression get stuck on bad thoughts because they're unable to turn their attention away.

People who don't recover from negative events seem to keep going over their troubles. "They basically get stuck in a mindset where they relive what happened to them over and over again," says Jutta Joormann, of the University of Miami. She co wrote the new study with Sara Levens and Ian H. Gotlib of Stanford University. "Even though they think, oh, it's not helpful, I should stop thinking about this, I should get on with my life -- they can't stop doing it," she says. She and her colleagues thought people with depression might have a problem with working memory. Working memory isn't just about remembering a shopping list or doing multiplication in your head; it's about what thoughts you keep active in your mind. So, Joormann thought, maybe people who get stuck on negative thoughts have problems turning their mind to a new topic.

Joormann and her colleagues recruited 26 people with depression and 27 people who had never had depression. Each person sat in front of a computer and was shown three words, one at a time for a second each. Then, they were told to remember the words either in the order they were presented or in backward order. The computer then presented one of the three words and they were supposed to respond as quickly as they could whether that word was first, second, or third in the list. The faster they were able to give a correct answer, the better they were at thinking flexibly.

People with depression had trouble re-ordering the words in their head; if they were asked to remember the words in reverse order, they took longer to give the correct answer. They had a particularly hard time if the three words had negative meanings, like "death" or "sadness."

"The order of the words sort of gets stuck in their working memory, especially when the words are negative," Joormann says. She also found that people who had more trouble with this are also more likely to ruminate on their troubles. She hopes that these findings point towards a way to help people with depression, by training them to turn their minds away from negative thoughts.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "People with depression get stuck on bad thoughts, unable to turn their attention away, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602162828.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2011, June 3). People with depression get stuck on bad thoughts, unable to turn their attention away, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602162828.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "People with depression get stuck on bad thoughts, unable to turn their attention away, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602162828.htm (accessed April 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

Treatment Gaps Endangering Cops, Mentally Ill

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) As states slash funding for mental health services, police officers are interacting more than ever with people suffering from schizophrenia and other serious disorders of the mind. The consequences can be deadly. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music

Newsy (Apr. 9, 2014) A University of Pittsburgh study found pop music that mentions alcohol is linked to higher drinking rates among teens. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins