, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 317-332

Attentional allocation processes in individuals at risk for depression

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Abstract

Cognitive models of depression typically emphasize cognitive schemas as important variables in the depression process. To date, evidence of these schemas is difficult to detect in remitted depressed individuals unless they have specifically been activated by factors such as negative moods. The present study tested one aspect of schema activation, attentional allocation, in individuals who had previously experienced a major depressive episode. Using a dichotic listening task to assess attention to negative and positive stimuli, results indicated no differences in non-mood-primed subjects. For subjects who had been primed by a negative mood induction, formerly depressed individuals evidenced greater error rates for both negative and positive stimuli, while never-depressed subjects evidenced decreased error rates for negative and positive stimuli. These results appear to suggest a schema activation process that is emotionally diffuse but unique to individuals at risk for depression.