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Cognition and Depression: Current Status and Future Directions

Posted: 4 Jun 2010  

Ian H. Gotlib

Stanford University

Jutta Joormann

University of Miami

Date Written: April 2010


Cognitive theories of depression posit that people's thoughts, inferences, attitudes, and interpretations, and the way in which they attend to and recall information, can increase their risk for depression. Three mechanisms have been implicated in the relation between biased cognitive processing and the dysregulation of emotion in depression: inhibitory processes and deficits in working memory, ruminative responses to negative mood states and negative life events, and the inability to use positive and rewarding stimuli to regulate negative mood. In this review, we present a contemporary characterization of depressive cognition and discuss how different cognitive processes are related not only to each other, but also to emotion dysregulation, the hallmark feature of depression. We conclude that depression is characterized by increased elaboration of negative information, by difficulties disengaging from negative material, and by deficits in cognitive control when processing negative information. We discuss treatment implications of these conclusions and argue that the study of cognitive aspects of depression must be broadened by investigating neural and genetic factors that are related to cognitive dysfunction in this disorder. Such integrative investigations should help us gain a more comprehensive understanding of how cognitive and biological factors interact to affect the onset, maintenance, and course of depression.

Suggested Citation

Gotlib, Ian H. and Joormann, Jutta, Cognition and Depression: Current Status and Future Directions (April 2010). Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 6, pp. 285-312, 2010. Available at SSRN: or

Ian H. Gotlib (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jutta Joormann

University of Miami

Coral Gables, FL 33124
United States

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