Journal of Experimental Psychopathology vol:5 pages:314-328
The severity of many psychological disorders is associated with an increasing amount of different stimuli or situations that elicit a maladaptive response. This is known as the process of (over)-generalization and is often characteristic of individuals with emotional disorders. Recently, abstract repetitive thought has been proposed to be a transdiagnostic marker in several disorders (e.g., worry in anxiety; rumination in depression). The present study examined the impact of an abstract thinking style (compared to a more concrete thinking style) as a mechanism that contributes to generalization. Students (N=83) were trained in either an abstract or concrete thinking mode and then completed a learning phase and finally a generalization test phase. High dysphoric students showed more negative generalization in the abstract condition compared to the concrete condition. For low dysphoric participants, the two thinking styles did not result in a difference in generalization. Implications for the transdiagnostic value of an abstract processing style in depression and anxiety are discussed.