Dysphoria is associated with persistence of attention on mood-congruent information. Longer time attending to mood-congruent information for dysphoric individuals (DIs) detracts from goal-relevant information processing and should reduce working memory (WM) capacity. Study 1 showed that DIs and non-DIs have similar WM capacities. Study 2 embedded depressive information into a WM task. Compared to non-DIs, DIs showed significantly reduced WM capacity for goal-relevant information in this task. Study 3 replicated results from Studies 1 and 2, and further showed that DIs had a significantly greater association between processing speed and recall on the depressively modified WM task compared to non-DIs. The presence of inter-task depressive information leads to DI-related decreased WM capacity. Results suggest dysphoria-related WM capacity deficits when depressive thoughts are present. WM capacity deficits in the presence of depressive thoughts are a plausible mechanism to explain day-to-day memory and concentration difficulties associated with depressed mood.
Keywords: Attention; Depressed mood; Memory deficits; Processing speed; Working memory capacity.