Having over-general autobiographical memory (OGM) is linked with numerous negative outcomes, including impaired social problem-solving and poorer depression prognosis. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a highly researched phenomenon in this field.
OGM is when someone recalls a personal event but shares a general or extended response instead. A general one could be if the event happened multiple times, while an extended one is if it lasted a day or more. Individuals who are depressed are more likely to have this response style. For example, when someone depressed is asked to recall a memory related to the word “school”, they might respond with a category-like answer, such as “taking exams”, instead of specifying a particular event, such as “taking my organic chemistry final” or a more detailed response like “my freshman year of college.”
This study is the largest meta-analysis to date on OGM in depression, with results from 67 published and unpublished works. The authors found that depressed individuals have decreased autobiographical memory specificity and increased categoricity compared to controls. While deficits were present in subthreshold and remitted depression groups, more severe OGM was detected in current clinical MDD.
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