Illumination on rumination: An experience sampling study

Rumination is a well-known factor for depression. However, in-the-moment effects of rumination on momentary mood, or how rumination effects depression over time are not as well-known. A study from the University of Leuven in Belgium explored these aspects of rumination and depression through experience sampling.

Participants were undergraduates from the university. After taking a questionnaire outlining depressive symptoms and trait rumination, participants were given smartphones that used an experience sampling program. The phones prompted the participants to answer questions about

  1. Their current positive and negative affect (mood)
  2. Whether or not they had ruminated since the last prompt

The study found that rumination was not associated with increases in negative (or positive) affect soon after the person had ruminative thoughts. However, they did find that if someone had increased rumination over time, they also were more likely to exhibit overall depressive symptoms. So, participants weren’t likely to feel bad after ruminating soon after, but rumination increased the chance they would experience depression over a longer period of time.

This study was helpful because it enabled researchers to observe the effects of rumination on mood and depressive symptoms in the moment (which had been difficult to study before), and see the relationship between rumination and depressive symptoms in real time. The article concludes that focusing treatment on ruminative habits can help prevent consequential depressive symptoms.

Article

Pasyugina, I., Koval, P., De Leersnyder, J., Mesquita, B., & Kuppens, P. (2015). Distinguishing between level and impact of rumination as predictors of depressive symptoms: An experience sampling study. Cognition and Emotion, 29(4), 736-746.

Author Ellen Steinke

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