The nature of negative thoughts in depression

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1985 Mar;48(3):799-807. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.48.3.799.


We investigated the nature and content of the negative thoughts that accompany depression by examining thoughts about oneself and others during three cognitive tasks: imaging, recall, and inference. Mildly depressed and nondepressed subjects were asked to image, recall, and make inferences about a variety of events while thinking about themselves or another person. The events were sad or happy and either social or nonsocial in nature. The results suggest that the negativity in thought that accompanies depression is restricted to thoughts about oneself and does not extend to thoughts about others. The relation between negative thoughts and the depressive's view of self is discussed. It is proposed that depressives have a negative self-schema that makes the affective nature of their behavior particularly salient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Mental Recall
  • Self Concept*
  • Set, Psychology
  • Social Perception
  • Thinking*