Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes


Unpacking Rumination and Executive Control: A Network Perspective

Saturday, November 18
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Location: Aqua Salon C & D, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: Rumination | Cognitive Processes | Statistics
Presentation Type: Symposium

Rumination is a common and problematic feature of depression and related disorders. It may reflect impairments in executive control. However, sufficient evidence of causality is lacking, which may be attributable to the conceptualization of rumination as a unitary process measured by a sum score despite its multifaceted definition (e.g. repetitive, self-focused). Instead, cognitive indices may causally relate to some, but not all, facets of rumination. We used network analysis to explore this conceptualization of rumination and executive control.

Participants (N=91) completed computerized tasks to assess working memory, inhibitory control, and task-shifting and reported on their level of rumination following a stressor. Items included perseveration, negativity, self-criticism, brooding, and replaying. We computed a regularized partial correlation network, relative importance network, and directed acyclic graph to estimate the functional relations among aspects of rumination and executive control.

Results highlighted the centrality of self-criticism, particularly in terms of its influence on other rumination items. Additionally, self-criticism appeared to be influenced by the executive control tasks. Findings are suggestive of feedback loops within the network. For example, self-criticism strongly predicted perseveration and brooding, which then predicted poor executive control, which in turn predicted greater self-criticism. Analyses suggest that components forming the rumination construct are related, but not interchangeable. Accordingly, rumination may be better conceptualized as multifaceted and experimentally tested as such. Claims that cognitive deficits underlie rumination or that rumination causes cognitive impairments seem oversimplified. In reality, basic cognitive processes may predict— and perhaps activate— specific components constitutive of rumination while also being exacerbated by other component processes. Ultimately, network models may help guide treatment research, as they are increasingly able to represent directional and even causal structures and to highlight nodes that when deactivated might precipitate the greatest clinical changes.

Emily E. Bernstein

Graduate Student
Harvard University


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Unpacking Rumination and Executive Control: A Network Perspective

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