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Ruminating and Distracting: The Effects of Sequential Tasks on Depressed Mood

Abstract

Response styles theory (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987)provided the impetus for recent research effortsinvestigating the effects of rumination and distractionon depressed mood. This study elaborates on previous research by examining the sequential effects ofengaging in ruminating and distracting tasks. Resultsfrom two studies indicated that initially engaging in aruminating task maintained postinduction levels of dysphoric mood, whereas initially engagingin a distracting task reduced levels of dysphoric mood.More important, however, were the effects of task orderon mood. When participants engaged in a distracting taskfollowing aruminating task, dysphoric mood, which had been maintainedwith a ruminating task, was reduced to premoodinductionlevels. Of equal importance, individuals who ruminatedafter distracting maintained their current mood and did not report an increase in depressedmood. In the second study, engaging in sequentialrumination tasks further prolonged depressed mood,whereas engaging in sequential distraction tasks reduceddepressed mood. The results suggest that, althoughengaging in a rumination task maintains depressed moodand engaging in a distraction task reduces it, the orderin which these tasks are performed is also important. The implications of these results for responsestyles theory are discussed.

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Trask, P.C., Sigmon, S.T. Ruminating and Distracting: The Effects of Sequential Tasks on Depressed Mood. Cognitive Therapy and Research 23, 231–246 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018787430249

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1018787430249

  • RUMINATION
  • RESPONSE STYLES
  • DEPRESSED MOOD