Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




According to the response style theory of depression (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987), the way in which individuals respond to depressed mood affects the severity and duration of that mood. Prior laboratory studies of response style have not included psychophysiological measures or investigated the relationship between ruminative response style and the conceptually-related constructs of worry and neuroticism. Dysphoric (n = 84) and nondysphoric participants (n = 86) were randomly assigned to either a rumination task (i.e., self-focused attention) or a distraction task (i.e., other-focused attention). In addition to the pre-task and post-task mood ratings used in prior response style studies, the present study included measures of worry, neuroticism and psychophysiological response. Greater psychophysiological response and self-reported depressed mood and worry were anticipated in the dysphoric ruminators as compared to the dysphoric distractors and the nondysphoric ruminators and distractors. Results supported prior findings that distraction and rumination differentially impact depressed mood in dysphoric individuals; dysphoric ruminators reported significantly higher levels of post-task depressed mood than did dysphoric distractors. Of the psychophysiological responses measured, a significant difference in post-rumination systolic blood pressure was found between nondysphoric men and women. Additionally, post-rumination worry ratings were significantly higher than the post-distraction worry ratings, regardless of initial dysphoria status. The implications of these results for future response style research are discussed.

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