Date of Award

8-1-2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kertz, Sarah

Abstract

Deficits in cognitive control are associated with problems disengaging from ruminative thought, a significant risk factor for depression. Cognitive control refers to higher order cognitive processes used for goal-directed behavior, including emotion regulation. The current study examined associations between the switching component of cognitive control and rumination and tested the effects of two interventions used to improve cognitive control and thereby decrease ruminative thought. Undergraduate participants completed self-report measures to assess symptoms and an internal shift task to assess shifting ability. Participants completed a mood and rumination induction and were randomly assigned to one session of the Attention Training Technique (ATT), (n = 69), mindfulness meditation (n = 70), or an attention filler control task (n = 72). Switching deficits and rumination were not associated. The ATT moved participants’ focus of attention externally, and this outward shift in attention predicted lower state rumination. Decentering, however, was not impacted by attention training or mindfulness. Focus of attention did not impact mood recovery despite significant improvement in sad mood across all conditions. Overall, one session of attention training and mindfulness appears to have an impact on sad mood, but this effect is not superior to a simple distraction task. More than one session may be necessary to observe substantial benefits from the ATT or mindfulness. Implications and future research are discussed.

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