An investigation of the different roles of overgeneral autobiographical memory
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The four studies presented in this dissertation attempted to differentiate the roles of overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) as either an avoidant cognitive process that assists in affect regulation or as an epiphenomenon of poor cognitive functioning. We attempted to do this by examining the optimal conditions under which OGM would be associated with affect regulation (as opposed to being the result of poor executive processes), presumably conditions of high trait functional avoidance and good executive processing. We conducted four different studies that examined trait functional avoidance and executive control as moderators of the relationship between OGM and affect regulation. Although the results from these four studies did not converge in a clear manner, they confirmed past findings suggesting that OGM is associated with less negative affect following an acute stressor. In addition, they highlighted several ways in which OGM may interact with individual characteristics to be either harmful or helpful. For affect regulation following an acute stressor, OGM was associated with dampened negative reactions irrespective of level of trait functional avoidance or executive control. For more trait-like measures of affect regulation, OGM was associated with less trait emotional reactivity in those with good cognitive functioning, whereas OGM was associated with more trait emotional reactivity in those with poor cognitive functioning. These results were reversed when examining future depression: greater OGM was associated with increased risk of future depression among those with good cognitive functioning, whereas greater OGM was associated with decreased risk of future depression among those with poor cognitive functioning. These studies represent an attempt to empirically determine the role of OGM in affect regulation; although inconclusive, they provided insight into the role of cognitive functioning when examining the relationship between OGM and affect regulation and hopefully will inform future research on the topic.