Rumination and intentional forgetting of emotional material

Jutta Joormann, Tanya B. Tran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The tendency to respond to negative life events and negative mood states with ruminative thinking has been linked to emotion dysregulation and to a heightened risk for the onset and maintenance of emotional disorders. To further investigate this maladaptive response style, the present study examined whether rumination is linked to individual differences in the ability to intentionally forget emotional material. In a directed forgetting task, participants were instructed to memorise a list of positive and negative words and were subsequently told to forget these words. Next, participants were told to memorise a new list and, finally, recall was tested for all to-be-forgotten and to-be-remembered words. Our results demonstrate a close relation between rumination and recall in the forget condition but not in the remember condition. Specifically, compared to participants who scored low on the Ruminative Responses Scale (RRS), participants who scored high exhibited reduced forgetting of positive and negative to-be-forgotten words. These results remained stable when depression scores were included as a covariate suggesting that irrespective of depressive symptoms, rumination and intentional forgetting of emotional material are closely related.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1233-1246
Number of pages14
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2009


  • Cognition
  • Depression
  • Emotion
  • Memory
  • Rumination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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