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Cognitive Reactivity Amplifies the Activation and Development of Negative Self-schema: A Revised Mnemic Neglect Paradigm and Computational Modelling



Little is known about how self-schemas are formed, fluctuate, and are reinforced. In this study, we used a revised mnemic neglect paradigm to examine how self-schema fluctuates following episodic events (feedback) and its self-concordance.


Participants exhibiting various depressive symptoms (BDI-II ranging from 1 to 36; M = 11.90) underwent psychological testing, followed by bogus feedback regarding their personality, future, and behavioural traits, where they rated their state self-schemas and feedback self-concordance trial-by-trial.

Results and Conclusions

Linear mixed models showed that feedback self-concordance was determined by the interaction between self-schema and the emotional valence of the feedback, and the self-schema fluctuated with the interaction between prediction error (the difference between the emotional valence of the feedback and current self-schema) and feedback self-concordance. Cognitive reactivity, the ease of responding to negative moods, was associated with higher parameters regressed onto self-schema and self-concordance regardless of the feedback valence, indicating that it enhances the likelihood of self-schema fluctuation positively and negatively. The simulation of self-schema development shows that some individuals developed a negative self-schema even after experiencing many positive events; these parameters were characteristic of individuals with high levels of cognitive reactivity. These results have significant implications for self-schema development and depression.

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  1. A list of feedback items in Japanese is available from the first author.

  2. We were also interested in whether the amount of change in the self-schema and cognitive reactivity predicted memory performance on a per-feedback basis. Unfortunately, we were unable to conduct such an analysis due to the loss of 20 participants’ memory recording forms. The data of these memory recollections under each emotional valence were available because they were tabulated before being lost.

  3. A significant interaction among the emotional valence of feedback, feedback self-concordance and LEIDS-R was observed in the three-way mixed effect model for the current self-schema after controlling for the state self-schema in the pretrial period (γ = − 0.005, t = − 3.58, p < .001). The two-way interaction between the emotional valence of the feedback and feedback self-concordance was also significant (γ = − 0.13, t = − 5.51, p < .001). Under the positive feedback conditions, high self-concordance predicted positive changes in the self-schema (γ = 0.06, t = 3.22, p = .001), and under the negative feedback conditions, high self-concordance predicted negative changes in the self-schema (γ = − 0.06, t = − 4.06, p < .001). Here, LEIDS-R further strengthened the interaction between the emotional valence of feedback and feedback self-concordance.

  4. Although this note is speculative, the simulations conducted in this study may also explain the pathology of narcissistic personality (Pincus & Lukowitsky, 2010). The exploratory correlational analysis results show that narcissistic personality scores are associated with α. Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by a strong desire to receive approval and admiration from others (American Psychiatric Association, 2013), which strengthens positive self-schema and feelings of grandiosity. Individuals with this disorder also experience emotional vulnerability when experiencing criticism and frustration. In the simulations involving high α and low w values with 20% and 50% negative events, the self-schema oscillated between positive and negative, which may reflect the emotional vulnerability experienced by those with narcissistic personality disorder. However, we observed several cases of persistent exaggeration in which both α and w were high. Once the tendency for positive self-schema forms, the process of selectively noticing positive information may be a pathology in narcissistic personalities.


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This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Grant Nos. 17J04080, 18K13344).

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Correspondence to Noboru Matsumoto.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Matsumoto, N., Katahira, K. & Kawaguchi, J. Cognitive Reactivity Amplifies the Activation and Development of Negative Self-schema: A Revised Mnemic Neglect Paradigm and Computational Modelling. Cogn Ther Res 47, 38–51 (2023).

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  • Depression
  • Cognitive reactivity
  • Self-schema
  • Mnemic neglect
  • Reinforcement learning