Graduation Semester and Year




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

William Ickes


Individuals with high depressive symptomatology have better memory for negative events than positive events. The preferential processing of negative information supports the theory of a depressive self-schema in individuals diagnosed with depression (Beck, 1979). Processing information through a depressive self-schema (or mindset) can perpetuate negative rumination and worsen the symptoms related to depression. Although it is well established that individuals with high depressive symptomatology remember more unpleasant information than positive or neutral information, not as much is known about whether or not these individuals possess a selective bias for processing depression-related unpleasant information (i.e., words such as lonely, sadness, lethargy) over other unpleasant information (i.e., words such as rotten, seasick, victim). To investigate this phenomenon, electroencephalography (EEG) was used to measure the temporal resolution of brain activity while individuals who score high and low in symptoms of depression participated in an event-related memory task involving unpleasant (depression-related and general) and neutral words. Contrary to the initial hypothesis, individuals with high depressive symptomatology did not show a selective memory benefit for unpleasant depression-related information over and above generally unpleasant and neutral information at all levels of processing. Nor did they exhibit within-group differences in event-related potential (ERPs) corresponding to processing depression-related content versus generally unpleasant content. However, individuals with high depressive symptomatology did exhibit between-group differences in mean reaction time, ERPs, and alpha band activity in comparison to individuals with low depressive symptomatology. These findings provide supporting evidence of a distinction in implicit processing (i.e. mean reaction time) and neural processing (i.e. ERPs related to unpleasant and neutral processing) between groups of high and low depressive symptomatology.


Levels of processing, Memory, Depressive self-schema, Depression, EEG


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Degree granted by The University of Texas at Arlington

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Psychology Commons