Theses and Dissertations


Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


DeShong, Hilary L.

Committee Member

Winer, E. Samuel

Committee Member

Dozier, Mary E.

Committee Member

Liu, Richard T.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Campus Access Only



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Cognitive theories of depression, including Beck’s Cognitive Theory, suggest that depressed individuals hold negative schemas about themselves and their environment. These negative schemas may influence the extent to which depressed individuals process positivity. Reward Devaluation Theory posits that depressed individuals avoid and devalue positivity. This suggests that depressed individuals may be less likely to hold positive schemas, or may be more likely to associate positivity with negativity. Previous meta-analytic reviews suggest that this is potentially the case, but have not assessed for self-referential stimuli. Self-referential encoding and recall tasks assess for self-schemas and may give further insight into how depressed individuals process self-referential positivity. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to examine the extent to which depressed individuals differ in processing self-referential positivity and negativity. Results indicate that depressed individuals recalled fewer positive words than negative words, with severely depressed individuals also endorsing fewer positive words than negative words, in line with Reward Devaluation Theory. In addition, depressed individuals endorsed fewer positive words and more negative words as self-referential than other-referential. In comparison to nondepressed individuals, depressed individuals demonstrated endorsed and recalled fewer positive words and more negative words. These findings suggest that treatments targeting both reduced positive biases and increased negative biases may be most beneficial for depressed individuals, particularly those exhibiting more severe symptoms of depression