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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Rumination, goals and autobiographical memory

Repetitive and intrusive thought about unattained goals ('rumination') is a common mental response to problems in everyday living that has been implicated in both psychopathology and adaptive functioning. Although rumination is hypothesised to be instigated by poor perceived rates of progress towards personal goals (the self-regulatory theory of rumination), few studies have directly tested the relationship between goal motivation and ruminative thinking.

This research will test the hypothesis that rumination is increased when individuals have problems reducing discrepancies within personal goal systems.This will be accomplished by assessing motivational structures via personal goal systems (Study 1a), by examining the accessibility of autobiographical memories relating to goal discrepancies (Study 1b), and by sampling rumination and goal discrepancies as they fluctuate in everyday life (Study 2).

The following predictions will be tested:

  •  ruminators will report more conflicting relationships between goals, more abstract goals and more avoidance-oriented goals than non-ruminators
  • ruminators will retrieve more specific autobiographical memories relating to failures to achieve goals than non-ruminators
  • everyday rumination will be associated with discrepancies between perceived and expected rates of progress on current goals, particularly for ruminators and individuals reporting more depressive symptoms.