The effect of depressed mood on the interpretation of ambiguity, with and without negative mood induction

Cognition and Emotion 21 (3):614-645 (2007)
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Abstract

Is there an effect of depressed mood on the interpretation of ambiguity? Are depressed individuals biased to interpret ambiguous information in a negative manner? We used a cross-modal semantic priming task to look for evidence of a negative interpretative bias. Participants listened to ambiguous prime sentences (e.g., Joan was stunned by her final exam mark) and made lexical decisions to target words presented immediately after the sentence offset or after a delay of 1000 ms or 2000 ms. For the semantically related targets, the target was negatively related (distress), positively related (success), or neutrally related (grades) to the ambiguous prime. The experiment was conducted with and without a negative mood induction. The expectation was that depressed participants would be more likely to consider the negative interpretations of the ambiguous primes and would therefore experience larger priming effects for negatively related targets. Although there were large priming effects for all semantically related targets, there was no evidence of a negative interpretative bias.

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