Reduced goal specificity is associated with reduced memory specificity in depressed adults

Jessica Belcher, Maria Kangas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Models of autobiographical memory suggest a close association between memories, future imagination and setting specific personal goals. However this association has yet to be tested with depressed individuals. The aim of this study was to examine whether the specificity of remembering past and imagining future personal events is associated with the specificity of approach and avoidance goals in depressed individuals. Two samples comprising adults who met criteria for major depressive disorder (MDD; N=30) and adults who had no prior history or current depression (N=30) completed autobiographical memory and future event tests, and a personal goal task. In the depressed sample, the specificity with which participants remembered the past was significantly associated with the specificity with which they generated future goals. The depressed sample also elicited fewer specific approach and avoidance goals compared to the non-depressed sample. These findings suggest that an overgeneral memory deficit extends to impairments in goal specificity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-171
Number of pages9
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Depression
  • Future thinking
  • Goals
  • Imagination


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