Overgeneral autobiographical memory in depression: a three-level meta-analysis

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Weiss-Cowie, Samuel Aaron
Duarte, Audrey
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Overgeneral Autobiographical Memory (OGM) is a frequently studied phenomenon in major depressive disorder (MDD). Although there exist several meta-analyses on OGM and MDD, their emphasis on clinically diagnosed current depression leaves open question about the severity of OGM in subthreshold and remitted depression. In addition, numerous studies of OGM have remained unconsidered due to a focus on one testing paradigm, the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT). To address these gaps, we conducted a meta-analysis on OGM in MDD that included remitted, subthreshold, and currently depressed samples and incorporated non-AMT studies. In addition, we used three level models for the first time, which enabled robust variance analyses including multiple effect sizes from each study while controlling for dependencies across those effect sizes. With results from a total of 67 published and unpublished works, ours is the largest meta-analysis to date on OGM in depression. We simultaneously identified decreased autobiographical memory specificity (g = -0.73) and increased categoricity (g = 0.77) for depressed individuals compared to controls. Moderator analyses suggested that OGM is more severe in current, clinical MDD than subthreshold and remitted depression, while OGM is similarly severe for positive, neutral, and negative memories. Our results resolve longstanding debate surrounding the relationship between valence and OGM while emphasizing the importance of utilizing a broader range of testing paradigms and considering non-clinical depression in future work.
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