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This study compares involuntary and voluntary autobiographical memories in depressed and never depressed individuals. Twenty depressed and twenty never depressed individuals completed a memory diary; recording their reactions to 10 involuntary and 10 voluntary memories over 14-30 days. Psychiatric status (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV, SCID-1), psychopathology, rumination and avoidance were assessed. For both groups, involuntary memories more frequently lead to strong reactions than voluntarily memories. For both modes of retrieval, depressed individuals reported more frequent negative reactions than never depressed individuals and rated memories as more central to identity with higher levels of rumination and avoidance. Depressed individuals retrieved both positive and negative memories during involuntary retrieval. These findings support the view that involuntary memory retrieval represents a basic mode of retrieval during healthy and disordered cognition, and that during depression, both involuntary and voluntary memories are central to identity and associated with rumination and avoidance.

Original publication




Journal article


Conscious Cogn

Publication Date





1382 - 1392


Case-Control Studies, Depressive Disorder, Major, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Episodic, Psychiatric Status Rating Scales, Surveys and Questionnaires, Young Adult