Government and International Relations Honors Papers

The Role of Rumination in the Function, Content, and Affective Quality of Self-Defining Memories

Mary Gover, Connecticut College

Document Type Honors Paper


Rumination is a response to a negative mood that is characterized by an intense self focus, specifically on one’s negative feelings and the challenges or problems these
feelings may pose (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1991). Numerous studies have stressed the
maladaptive nature of this response style and several have begun to investigate its role in autobiographical memory recall (Lyubomirsky, Caldwell, & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1998;
Lyubomirsky & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1995; Nolen-Hoeksema, Parker, & Larson, 1994).
However, rumination research has yet to focus on self-defining memories which have an added relevance and importance to an individual (Singer & Blagov, 2004). The present study investigates rumination’s role in the content, functions, and affective quality of self-defining memories. Ninety-five Connecticut College students first filled out measures of rumination and depression. Sixty of these participants were later asked to write out 10 self-defining memories according to Singer and Salovey’s (1993) criteria and rate them on affective valence, importance, and function. Memories were coded for specificity, integrative meaning, redemption, and contamination. Rumination was found to be positively correlated with the directive function of memory, with the brooding and depressive aspects of rumination also predicting use of memories to serve certain functions. However, the mean depression score for high ruminators was twice that of low ruminators, possibly indicating that the ways in which ruminators think about their memories may be maladaptive.


The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.