Original Article

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 50-65

First online:

A Multi-wave Web-based Evaluation of Cognitive Content Specificity for Depression, Anxiety, and Anger

  • Phillip N. SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Texas Tech University
  • , Gregory H. MummaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Texas Tech University Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


This study tested the cognitive content specificity hypothesis of Beck’s cognitive theory using a web based report of mood and cognitions for that day completed once a week for 5 weeks. The use of a multi-wave design and structural equation modeling allowed for the separation of occasion-specific variability from over-time stability, thereby increasing sensitivity to the relatively brief changes in negative affect typical of student populations. To further increase specificity, an expanded set of cognitive themes was tested for depression, anxiety, and anger. Consistent with models indicating that these mood states share a general negative mood, all cognitions had a significant non-specific relationship to all three mood states. For tests of occasion-specific cognitive content specificity, thoughts of Transgression were incrementally specific to angry mood whereas Defectiveness, Hopelessness, and Abandonment were each specific to depressed mood. Failure was more strongly related to depression and anxiety than anger. Contrary to hypotheses, both Dependence and Vulnerability to Harm were non-specific only.


Cognitive content specificity Cognitive theory Multiwave research design Longitudinal structural equation modeling