A meta-analytic review of mood-congruent implicit memory in depressed mood

Clin Psychol Rev. 2014 Jul;34(5):402-16. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2014.06.001. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


In studies of explicit memory, researchers have reliably demonstrated that mood-congruent, depressive information is especially likely to be recalled by individuals exhibiting depressed mood. Results from studies of implicit mood-congruent memory in depressed mood, however, have been largely discrepant. The current research reviews 20 studies of implicit mood-congruent memory for emotionally valenced words in the context of dysphoria and clinical depression. Meta-analytic techniques were used to summarize this research. Results indicated that depressive groups exhibited preferential implicit recall of negative information and nondepressed groups exhibited preferential implicit recall of positive information. Also, depressive implicit mood-congruent memory for negative information was associated with recall and encoding tasks that matched with regard to the perceptual versus conceptual processes required. Furthermore, self-relevance emerged as an important moderator for implicit recall in analyses that compared clinically depressed groups to nondepressed groups. These results provide partial support both for the transfer appropriate processing framework of memory and cognitive theories of depression that emphasize self-relevant information. Finally, certain participant characteristics, particularly age and severity of depressive symptoms, emerged as important moderators of the effect of group status on depressive implicit recall biases.

Keywords: Depression; Depth of processing; Dysphoria; Implicit memory; Mood-congruent memory; Transfer appropriate processing.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall / physiology*