Specificity and overlap of attention and memory biases in depression

Igor Marchetti*, Jonas Everaert, Justin Dainer-Best, Tom Loeys, Christopher G. Beevers, Ernst H.W. Koster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Background Attentional and memory biases are viewed as crucial cognitive processes underlying symptoms of depression. However, it is still unclear whether these two biases are uniquely related to depression or whether they show substantial overlap. Methods We investigated the degree of specificity and overlap of attentional and memory biases for depressotypic stimuli in relation to depression and anxiety by means of meta-analytic commonality analysis. By including four published studies, we considered a pool of 463 healthy and subclinically depressed individuals, different experimental paradigms, and different psychological measures. Results Memory bias is reliably and strongly related to depression and, specifically, to symptoms of negative mood, worthlessness, feelings of failure, and pessimism. Memory bias for negative information was minimally related to anxiety. Moreover, neither attentional bias nor the overlap between attentional and memory biases were significantly related to depression. Limitations Limitations include cross-sectional nature of the study. Conclusions Our study showed that, across different paradigms and psychological measures, memory bias (and not attentional bias) represents a primary mechanism in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-412
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Attentional bias
  • Commonality analysis
  • Depression
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Memory bias
  • Meta-analysis


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