The relationship between rumination, dysphoria and self-referent thinking: some preliminary findings

Marc Obonsawin, J. Smallwood, S. Baracaia, H. Reid, R. O'Connor, D. Heim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rumination has recently been conceptualized as 'behaviors and thoughts that focus one's attention on one's depressive symptoms and on the implication of these symptoms' [1, p. 569). In this article, we describe current theoretical formulations about how a ruminative processing style interacts with a dysphoric mood to yield high levels of self-relevant thinking. In the subsequent sections, we describe three experiments, the results of which broadly support a combination of two themes described in the literature: (i) that rumination, in the absence of dysphoria, seems to be associated with high levels of task focus, consistent with the attentional inflexibility hypothesis; and (ii) that we can distinguish between the effects of rumination and dysphoria in terms of their contributions to the content of a self-referential thinking. In particular, dysphoria seems to be associated with higher levels of pre-occupation with one's concerns while rumination, particularly in the presence of a dysphoric mood, seems to be associated with a pre-occupation with one's own performance: a finding consistent with the mood as input hypothesis for rumination. The theoretical implications for these findings are discussed, and we outline two important issues for future research to tackle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-342
Number of pages25
JournalImagination, Cognition and Personality Consciousness in Theory - Research - Clinical Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • cognition
  • rumination
  • educational psychology

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