Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 34, Issue 6, pp 554–562

Cognitive Reactivity in Everyday Life as a Prospective Predictor of Depressive Symptoms

  • Susan J. Wenze
  • Kathleen C. Gunthert
  • Nicholas R. Forand
Original Article


We used PDA devices and an experience sampling technique to assess participants’ negative mood and thoughts as they engaged in their normal daily routines over the course of a week. We then calculated each person’s own unique relationship between mood and thoughts, and used this index of cognitive reactivity to predict depressive symptoms at 6-month follow-up. Participants who demonstrated a stronger link between their momentary negative mood and negative cognitions reported more depressive symptoms at follow-up than those who had a weaker relationship between mood and cognitions. Further, this cognitive reactivity index was a better predictor of follow-up depressive symptom scores than initial depressive symptoms, dysfunctional attitudes, average experienced negative mood or thoughts, or variability of negative mood or thoughts. These results are consistent with earlier findings and build on previous research by demonstrating that naturally occurring cognitive reactivity is predictive of future mood disruptions.


Cognitive reactivity Depression Experience sampling 


  1. Abela, J. R. Z., & D’Alessandro, D. U. (2002). Beck’s cognitive theory of depression: A test of the diathesis-stress and causal mediation components. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 41, 111–128.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, A. T. (1967). Depression: Causes and treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  3. Beck, A. T., Brown, G., Steer, R. A., Eidelson, J. I., & Riskind, J. H. (1987). Differentiating anxiety and depression: A test of the cognitive content-specificity hypothesis. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96, 179–183.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Dobson, K. S., & Breiter, H. J. (1983). Cognitive assessment of depression: Reliability and validity of three measures. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 92, 107–109.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Dykman, B. M., & Johll, M. (1998). Dysfunctional attitudes and vulnerability to depressive symptoms: A 14-week longitudinal study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 337–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fichman, L., Koestner, R., Zuroff, D. C., & Gordon, L. (1999). Depressive styles and the regulation of negative affect: A daily experience study. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 23, 483–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gemar, M. C., Segal, Z. V., Sagrati, S., & Kennedy, S. J. (2001). Mood-induced changes on the implicit association test in recovered depressed patients. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 282–289.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Gotlib, I. H., & Cane, D. B. (1987). Construct accessibility and clinical depression: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 96, 199–204.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Gotlib, I. H., Joormann, J., Minor, K. L., & Hallmayer, J. (2008). HPA axis reactivity: A mechanism underlying the associations among 5-HTTLPR, stress, and depression. Biological Psychiatry, 63, 847–851.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Gunthert, K. C., Cohen, L. H., & Armeli, S. (2002). Unique effects of depressive and anxious symptomatology on daily stress and coping. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 21, 583–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hankin, B. L., Abramson, L. Y., Miller, N., & Haeffel, G. J. (2004). Cognitive vulnerability-stress theories of depression: Examining affective specificity in the prediction of depression versus anxiety in three prospective studies. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28, 309–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hollon, S. D., & Kendall, P. C. (1980). Cognitive self-statements in depression: Development of an Automatic Thoughts Questionnaire. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 4, 383–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ingram, R. E., & Wisnicki, K. S. (1988). Assessment of automatic positive cognition. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 898–902.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Just, N., Abramson, L. Y., & Alloy, L. B. (2001). Remitted depression studies as tests of the cognitive vulnerability hypotheses of depression onset: A critique and conceptual analysis. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 63–83.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Kuiper, N. A., Olinger, L. J., & Air, P. J. (1985). Stress, coping, and vulnerability to depression. Unpublished manuscript, University of Western Ontario.Google Scholar
  16. Kwon, S., & Oei, T. P. S. (1992). Differential causal roles of dysfunctional attitudes and automatic thoughts in depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 16, 309–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lewinsohn, P. M., Steinmetz, J., Larson, D., & Franklin, J. (1981). Depression related cognitions: Antecedents or consequences? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90, 213–219.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Miranda, J., Gross, J. J., Persons, J. B., & Hahn, J. (1998). Mood matters: Negative mood induction activates dysfunctional attitudes in women vulnerable to depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 22, 363–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Miranda, J., & Persons, J. B. (1988). Dysfunctional attitudes are mood-state dependent. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97, 76–79.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Myin-Germeys, I., Peeters, F., Havermans, R., Nicolson, N. A., deVries, M. W., Delespaul, P., et al. (2003). Emotional reactivity to daily life stress in psychosis and affective disorder: An experience sampling study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 107, 124–131.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. O’Neill, S. C., Cohen, L. H., Tolpin, L. H., & Gunthert, K. C. (2004). Affective reactivity to daily interpersonal stressors as a prospective predictor of depressive symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 23, 172–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Radloff, L. S. (1977). The CES-D scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population. Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Riley, W. T., Treiber, F. A., & Woods, M. G. (1989). Anger and hostility in depression. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177, 668–674.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Roberts, J. E., & Kassel, J. D. (1996). Mood state dependence in cognitive vulnerability to depression: The roles of positive and negative affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 20, 1–12.Google Scholar
  25. Sanderson, W. C., DiNardo, P. A., Rapee, R. M., & Barlow, D. H. (1990). Syndrome comorbidity in patients diagnosed with a DSM-III-R anxiety disorder. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 308–312.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Sandler, I., & Lakey, B. (1982). Locus of control as a stress moderator: The role of control perceptions and social support. American Journal of Community Psychology, 10, 65–78.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Scher, C. D., Ingram, R. E., & Segal, Z. V. (2005). Cognitive reactivity and vulnerability: Empirical evaluation of construct activation and cognitive diatheses in unipolar depression. Clinical Psychology Review, 25, 487–510.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Segal, Z. V., Gemar, M., & Williams, S. (1999). Differential cognitive response to a mood challenge following successful cognitive therapy or pharmacotherapy for unipolar depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 108, 3–10.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Segal, Z. V., Kennedy, S., Gemar, M., Hood, K., Pederson, R., & Buis, T. (2006). Cognitive reactivity to sad mood provocation and the prediction of depressive relapse. Archives of General Psychiatry, 63, 749–755.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Snyder, C. R., Crowson, J. J., Houston, B. K., Kurylo, M., & Poirier, J. (1997). Assessing hostile automatic thoughts: Development and validation of the HAT scale. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 21, 477–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stone, A., & Shiffman, S. (1994). Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) in behavioral medicine. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 16, 199–202.Google Scholar
  32. Tennen, H., Affleck, G., & Zautra, A. (2006). Depression history and coping with chronic pain: A daily process analysis. Health Psychology, 25, 370–379.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Van der Does, W. (2002). Cognitive reactivity to sad mood: Structure and validity of a new measure. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 40, 105–120.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Watson, D. & Clark, L. A. (1994). The PANAS-X: Manual for the positive and negative affect scheduleexpanded form. Unpublished Manuscript. Iowa City: University of Iowa.Google Scholar
  35. Weissman, A. (1980). Assessing depressogenic attitudes: A validation study. Paper presented at the 51st annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Hartford, CT.Google Scholar
  36. Weissman, A., & Beck, A. T. (1978). Development and validation of the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale: A preliminary investigation. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Education Research Association, Toronto, ON, Canada.Google Scholar
  37. Wenze, S. J., Gunthert, K. C., & Forand, N. R. (2007). Influence of dysphoria on positive and negative cognitive reactivity to daily mood fluctuations. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 915–927.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Wenze, S. J., Gunthert, K. C., Forand, N. R., & Laurenceau, J. P. (2009). The influence of dysphoria on reactivity to naturalistic fluctuations in anger. Journal of Personality, 77, 795–824.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan J. Wenze
    • 1
  • Kathleen C. Gunthert
    • 1
  • Nicholas R. Forand
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations