Training Forgetting of Negative Material in Depression

Jutta Joormann, Paula T. Hertel, Joelle LeMoult, Ian H. Gotlib

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


In this study, the authors investigated whether training participants to use cognitive strategies can aid forgetting in depression. Participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and never-depressed participants learned to associate neutral cue words with a positive or negative target word and were then instructed not to think about the negative targets when shown their cues. The authors compared 3 different conditions: an unaided condition, a positive-substitute condition, and a negative-substitute condition. In the substitute conditions, participants were instructed to use new targets to keep from thinking about the original targets. After the training phase, participants were instructed to recall all targets when presented with the cues. MDD participants, in contrast with control participants, did not exhibit forgetting of negative words in the unaided condition. In both the negative and positive substitute conditions, however, MDD participants showed successful forgetting of negative words and a clear practice effect. In contrast, negative substitute words did not aid forgetting by the control participants. These findings suggest that training depressed individuals to use cognitive strategies can increase forgetting of negative words.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-43
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • attention
  • cognition
  • depression
  • emotion
  • memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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