Rumination, goals and autobiographical memory

Lead Research Organisation: UNIVERSITY OF EXETER
Department Name: Psychology

Abstract

Abstracts are not currently available in GtR for all funded research. This is normally because the abstract was not required at the time of proposal submission, but may be because it included sensitive information such as personal details.

Publications

10 25 50

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Vassilopoulos SP (2012) Comparing imagery and verbal instructions for the experimental modification of interpretation and judgmental bias in children. in Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry

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Pearson KA (2010) Psychosocial correlates of depressive rumination. in Behaviour research and therapy

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Nicholas Moberly (Author) (2011) Rumination, dysphoria and personal goal strivings

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Nicholas Moberly (Author) (2009) Processing mode and emotional reactivity

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Moberly N (2016) Rumination on personal goals: Unique contributions of organismic and cybernetic factors in Personality and Individual Differences

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Dickson JM (2013) Goal internalization and outcome expectancy in adolescent anxiety. in Journal of abnormal child psychology

 
Description In a first study, people reported thinking more about ('ruminating on') goals when they reported progress to be slower. Furthermore, people whose goals involved avoiding negative outcomes (rather than approaching positive outcomes) tended to be more likely to ruminate more in general. People ruminated more about goals that focused on extrinsic outcomes (e.g., wealth, popularity) compared with goals that focused on intrinsic outcomes (e.g., self-development, intimate relationships), although this was not simply due to the fact that people made less progress on these goals. While previous research has revealed that a focus on avoiding negative outcomes-or gaining external approval-is associated with poorer well-being, these goal orientations may inherently predispose people to engage in ruminative thinking.

A second study examined ruminative thinking on a momentary basis during the pursuit of two important, long-term goals over a fortnight. More intense ruminative thought about a goal predicted reports of greater progress on a subsequent occasion. This was true even for individuals who reported more depressive symptoms, who might have been expected to ruminate more when they were making less progress. For achievement goals, but not relationship goals, people appeared to ruminate more about a goal in which they were investing more effort, and this explained the relationship with progress. Although these findings suggest that ruminative thinking may play a necessary role in everyday goal pursuit (for example, to overcome obstacles to progress), more evaluative forms of ruminative thinking were unrelated to goal progress.

A final study revealed that people who ruminated more recalled specific memories of goal-related events that were more unpleasant and unsuccessful than did others. When people recalled memories in response to an avoidance goal, they tended to report more unpleasant and unsuccessful memories, underlining the negative focus of avoidance goals. People also tended to recall more positive and successful memories relating to goals on which progress was more favourable, regardless of how difficult these goals were. Furthermore, people with a tendency to ruminate were more likely to recall negative memories relating to goals on which they were making less progress.
Exploitation Route Although the research involved undergraduate participants in a university setting, many of the processes that are examined have potential clinical and (to a lesser extent) educational application. Of arguably greatest relevance are findings relating to the association between particular types of goal content, goal orientation and ruminative thought. Although these research designs do not permit causal conclusions and therefore cannot be translated directly into motivational interventions, clinicians and educators may note these results in combination with past research that has linked avoidance/extrinsic goal content to poorer affective and performance outcomes. These findings suggest the possibility that ruminative thinking may play a role in this relationship. In both the therapist's office and the school classroom, awareness of the research results may help to guide individuals towards more approach-oriented and intrinsic goal pursuits. In clinical contexts, findings from the experience-sampling study may be useful to draw upon when explaining to clients that ruminative thinking commonly accompanies goal striving and is not inherently dysfunctional, but that its utility may be compromised if the client adopts a more evaluative mode of thinking. Knowledge of these findings may prevent the clinician presenting an over-simplistic picture of the globally pathological nature of rumination, which may be counterproductive as it may be straightforwardly discounted as a result of the client's everyday observations of positive and functional associations between rumination, increased effort and goal progress. These findings should prove useful to researchers who study how people regulate their behaviour and how the pursuit of particular goals (e.g., avoidance goals, extrinsically motivated goals) may be associated with various cognitive and emotional outcomes. Related to this, the results suggest that differences in ruminative thought may be one possible explanation for the association between different forms of goal pursuit and well-being. The results also speak to the debate about the circumstances in which rumination is adaptive and maladaptive, in light of the finding that ruminative thought is related to positive self-regulatory outcomes under many everyday circumstances, but not when it has a more self-evaluative tone. The findings should provide an empirical bridge between two parallel conceptualizations of ruminative thought that have evolved separately in clinical psychology and social cognition. Finally, these findings inform the literature that explores links between rumination and the specificity of autobiographical memories, as well as theoretical perspectives suggesting that current goals structure the memory retrieval process. In broad terms, the research suggests that an analysis of personal goal motivation may be a useful lens through which to understand the cognitive and affective experience of people in their everyday lives.
Sectors Education

Healthcare

 
Title Study 1 person-level data 
Description SPSS datafile with Study 1 data organised at the person-level. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Nil 
 
Title Study 1 scale item level data 
Description SPSS dataset including individual scale item data for Study 1. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Nil 
 
Title Study 1 striving level data 
Description SPSS dataset recording information recorded at the level of individual strivings (disaggregated within persons) for Study 1. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Nil 
 
Title Study 2 occasion level data 
Description SPSS dataset recording data for each experience-sampling occasion for Study 2. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Nil 
 
Title Study 2 person level data 
Description SPSS dataset including person-level data for Study 2. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Nil 
 
Title Study 2 scale item level data 
Description SPSS dataset including data recorded at the scale item level for Study 2. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Nil 
 
Description Contributing study findings to publication on goal conflict by Dr Martin Tomasik 
Organisation University of Zurich
Country Switzerland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Fellowship data archived on UK Data Archive have contributed to work by Dr Martin Tomasik on integrative metrics relating to goal conflict.
Collaborator Contribution Provision of data.
Impact Manuscript currently in preparation.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Manuscript, grant proposal and design of new empirical studies collaboration 
Organisation University of Liverpool
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Maintenance of pre-existing collaboration, writing up and submission of several manuscripts and grant proposals, and design of new empirical studies with Dr Joanne Dickson
Start Year 2008
 
Description Writing collaboration on empirical papers exploring the role of cognitive biases in adolescent social anxiety 
Organisation University of Patras
Country Greece 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Writing collaboration on empirical papers exploring the role of cognitive biases in adolescent social anxiety with Dr Stephanos Vassilopoulos
Start Year 2011
 
Description Invited seminar talk (Kingston University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was an invited research seminar talk at the University of Kingston on 25th February 2019 entitled 'Be careful what you wish for: Personal goals and psychological distress'. The audience was a small group of postgraduate students. I presented an overview of my research on personal goals and mental health, including several research studies funded (directly and indirectly) by the ESRC fellowship.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Motivational concomitants of ruminative thought and psychological distress : a personal strivings analysis 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk to trainee clinical psychologists at the University of Lancaster http://www.lancs.ac.uk/shm/dhr/courses/dclinpsy/documents2010-11/ResearchDocuments/seminars/Lancaster talk Sep 2010.ppt

http://www.lancs.ac.uk/shm/dhr/courses/dclinpsy/documents2010-11/ResearchDocuments/seminars/Lancaster talk Sep 2010.ppt
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Sampling experience using wristworn diaries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An invited lecture to third-year undergraduate psychology students, as part of a lecture series on positive psychology.

Increased interest in this methodology among students, several chose to address this area in coursework assignments.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011