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22-12-2020 | Original Article Open Access

How Depressive Symptoms Hinder Positive Information Processing: An Experimental Study on the Interplay of Cognitive Immunisation and Negative Mood in the Context of Expectation Adjustment

Cognitive Therapy and Research
Tobias Kube, Julia Anna Glombiewski
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10608-020-10191-4.

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People with depression maintain negative expectations despite disconfirming positive experiences by reappraising or discarding novel positive information, referred to as “cognitive immunisation”. A second body of literature suggests that negative mood can negatively affect information processing. Bridging these two lines of research, the present study examined the interplay of cognitive immunisation and negative mood in the context of expectation modification.


In a student sample (N = 152), we used a well-established experimental paradigm to examine the adjustment of performance expectations in response to positive performance feedback, and its relation to depressive symptoms. In a 2 × 2 design, participants received either a negative mood induction, a cognitive immunisation manipulation, both, or no further manipulation.


Participants from all experimental groups revised their previous expectations significantly in line with positive performance feedback. However, depressive symptoms were a negative predictor of expectation adjustment, and a moderation analysis indicated that this effect was particularly pronounced if participants underwent the negative mood induction.


Consistent with previous work, depressive symptoms were associated with a reduced ability to integrate positive information. Furthermore, our results suggest that the activation of negative mood in people with elevated levels of depression may hamper learning from new positive experience.

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