Skip to main content

Self-Referent Cognitions

  • 216 Accesses


Self-referent information processing; Self-schemata


Self-referent information processing describes how information from the environment is encoded, processed, or retrieved and connected to the self. This takes place through an individual’s self-schema, which is a stable, cognitive structure of thought patterns that influence how a person codes and interprets external stimuli in relation to him-/herself (Beck 1964). Self-referent cognitions are thoughts an individual has regarding him-/herself. They are the outcome of self-referent information processing and the expression of self-schema.


Information processing occurs when an individual receives information from the environment and then encodes, processes, or retrieves information from the memory. Many cognitive models of depression posit that biases in information processing are the principle cause of the development and maintenance of depression (for a review, see Jacobs et al. 2008). An important,...


  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Cognitive Structure
  • Depressed Individual
  • Processing Style
  • Ambiguous Stimulus

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Beck, A. T. (1964). Thinking and depression II. Archives of General Psychiatry, 10, 561–571.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beck, A. T. (1987). Cognitive models of depression. In R. L. Leahy & T. E. Dowd (Eds.), Clinical advances in cognitive psychotherapy: Theory and application (pp. 29–61). New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Butler, A. C., Chapman, J. E., Forman, E. M., & Beck, A. T. (2006). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioural therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 17–31.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Derry, P. A., & Kuiper, N. A. (1981). Schematic processing and self-reference in clinical depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 90, 286–297.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dozois, D. J. A., & Dobson, K. S. (2001). Information processing and cognitive organization in unipolar depression: Specificity and comorbidity issues. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 110, 236–246.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dykman, B. M., Abramson, L. Y., Alloy, L. B., & Hartlage, S. (1989). Processing of ambiguous and unambiguous feedback by depressed and nondepressed college students: Schematic biases and their implications for depressive realism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 431–445.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gençöz, T., Voelz, Z. R., Gençöz, F., Petit, J. W., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2001). Specificity of information processing styles to depressive symptoms in youth psychiatric inpatients. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 255–262.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobs, R. H., Reinecke, M. A., Gollan, J. K., & Kane, P. (2008). Empirical evidence of cognitive vulnerability for depression among children and adolescents: A cognitive science and developmental perspective. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 759–782.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kuiper, N. A., & Derry, P. A. (1982). Depressed and nondepressed content self-reference in mild depressives. Journal of Personality, 50, 67–80.

    CrossRef  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pössel, P., & Hautzinger, M. (2006). Effekte pharmakologischer und psychotherapeutischer Interventionen auf Depressionen bei Kindern und Jugendlichen. [Effects of pharmaco- and psychotherapeutic interventions of depression in children and adolescents]. Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie, 34, 243–255.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Weisz, J. R., McCarty, C. A., & Valeri, S. M. (2006). Effects of psychotherapy for depression in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 132–149.

    CrossRef  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrick Pössel .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Section Editor information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2016 Springer International Publishing AG

About this entry

Cite this entry

Pössel, P., Pittard, C.M. (2016). Self-Referent Cognitions. In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-28099-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Reference Behavioral Science and PsychologyReference Module Humanities and Social Sciences