Cognitive bias and affect regulation as prospective predictors of depressive symptoms

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Charles S. Carver - Committee Chair


The present study examined whether differences in automatic cognitive bias and affect regulation were associated with depression vulnerability among college students (N = 77). Responses to several standard cognitive tasks (e.g., dot-probe, Stroop, lexical decision task, scrambled sentences) were compared from before to after the negative mood induction. Affective reactivity to and recovery following a mood induction was also assessed. Remitted depressed and never depressed groups did not differ in their cognitive and affective responses to the mood induction. However, shifts in attention toward negative information (as measured by the dot-probe task) following a negative mood induction combined with higher intervening life stress to predict elevated levels of depression seven weeks later. Similarly, slower affective recovery following the mood induction combined with life stress to predict elevated depression at follow-up. Although depression groups did not differ in terms of cognitive bias or affect regulation, these variables did prospectively predict increases in depression. Results suggest that affect regulation and automatic cognitive biases may indeed have a causal role in depression susceptibility.


Psychology, Clinical

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