Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVE: To test the association between recall for socially rewarding (positive) and/or socially critical (negative) information and depressive symptoms. METHOD: Cohort study of people who had visited UK primary care in the past year reporting depressive symptoms (N = 558, 69% female). Positive and negative recall was assessed at three time-points, 2 weeks apart, using a computerised task. Depressive symptoms were assessed at four time-points using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Analyses were conducted using multilevel models. RESULTS: Concurrently we found evidence that, for every increase in two positive words recalled, depressive symptoms reduced by 0.6 (95% CI -1.0 to -0.2) BDI points. This association was not affected by adjustment for confounders. There was no evidence of an association between negative recall and depressive symptoms (-0.1, 95% CI -0.5 to 0.3). Longitudinally, we found more evidence that positive recall was associated with reduced depressive symptoms than vice versa. CONCLUSION: People with more severe depressive symptoms recall less positive information, even if their recall of negative information is unaltered. Clinicians could put more emphasis on encouraging patients to recall positive, socially rewarding information, rather than trying to change negative interpretations of events that have already occurred.

Original publication




Journal article


Acta psychiatr scand

Publication Date





489 - 498


depression, emotional memory, epidemiology, Adult, Aged, Depression, Female, Humans, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Mental Recall, Middle Aged, Prospective Studies, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Reinforcement, Social, Reward, United Kingdom, Young Adult