Original Article

Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 83-104

First online:

Cognitive Reactivity, Suicidal Ideation and Future Fluency: Preliminary Investigation of a Differential Activation Theory of Hopelessness/Suicidality

  • J. M. G. WilliamsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Warneford Hospital Email author 
  • , A. J. W. Van der DoesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Leiden University
  • , T. BarnhoferAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Warneford Hospital
  • , C. CraneAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Oxford University, Warneford Hospital
  • , Z. S. SegalAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Toronto

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The authors investigated whether the re-emergence of hopeless/suicidal cognitions over time can be explained within a differential activation framework. Studies 1 (N = 146) and 2 (N = 136) showed that individuals who reported suicidal ideation when depressed in the past had higher scores on the hopelessness/suicidality subscale of a measure assessing cognitive reactivity to low mood, the LEIDS. Study 3 (N = 32) demonstrated that self-reports on this subscale predicted changes in generativity for positive future events, an experimental measure of processes underlying hopelessness/suicidality, following sad mood induction. The results provide preliminary evidence that history of suicidal ideation is related to a specific cognitive response pattern, which may be reactivated by mild fluctuations in mood.


Depression Suicide Recurrence Cognitive reactivity Rumination Hopelessness Future thinking Vulnerability Differential activation theory