Since the 1980s a large body of empirical effort has been devoted to mood-congruent memory (MCM) biases in clinical depression. Whereas there is broad, albeit not unequivocal, evidence that depressive patients retain negative-valenced memory items better than neutral material, few studies have investigated false memories in depression. In a pilot study we gathered support for both enhanced true and false memory for emotional material in depression. The present study aimed to extend these preliminary findings. In view of investigations suggesting that arousing and meaningful stimuli have facilitated access to memory, personal salience was considered a moderator for MCM. In the present study 21 depressed and 22 healthy participants were presented six false memory lists dealing with neutral, negative, and positive themes. At recognition, each item had to be appraised for its degree of valence subsequent to an old-new judgement. Pre-categorised and subjective valence did not discriminate groups. However, relative to controls depressed patients showed both more veridical as well as false recognition for items that concurrently elicited higher salience ratings in patients. In contrast, group differences in recognition performance did not significantly affect salience ratings. Results indicate that salience modulates MCM and may account for discrepancies in the literature.
- False memory
- Mood-congruent memory