Memory deficits and response biases in depression



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The performances of 16 currently depressed, 16 previously depressed and nondepressed psychiatric inpatients as well as 16 nonpsychiatric-nondepressed controls were compared for recognition memory of affectively positive and negative content, self-referent adjectives. Signal detection methods were employed to separate the contributions to memory performance of information processing deficits and response biases. The findings suggest that the consistent reports of selective memory for negative events in depression may be explained by a response bias model. The selective memory of nondepressives for positive events, on the other hand, appears to be due to differences in information processing strategies between nondepressive and depresssive populations. Currently and previously depressed subjects were found to obtain significantly poorer memory performances than the nondepressed-psychiatric and nonpsychiatric-nondepressed subjects for positive content, self-referent adjectives. This relative diminution in memory performance was found to be due to a reduction in recognition memory sensitivity (d') for currently and previously depressed subjects. The implied information processing deficit did not appear to be due to encoding or moodbiased retrieval deficits and therefore a selective attention operation was hypothesized. Group differences in recognition memory performance for negative content personal information were also obtained. However, these differences were not found to be due to memory sensitivity differences but rather to be due to differences in response biases. Compared to nondepressedpsychiatric subjects, currently and previously depressed subjects set a significantly more liberal criterion for reporting their recognition of negative content, personal information. The findings from the current investigation indicate that selective memory for negative, personal events in depression may not be a function of a formal memory deficit. Rather, selective memory in depression appears to be due to the response biases the subjects bring to the task. Specifically, depressed and depression prone subjects appear to be biased toward reporting negative personal information. Findings are discussed in terms of their specificity to depression and their implications for future research aimed at discovering the complex relationships between mood, memory, cognition and behavior.



Depression, Mental, Memory disorders