Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Master of Arts (AM/MA)

Degree Type



Elevated trait rumination is associated with and predicts the onset of major depressive disorder (MDD), but not all people with elevated trait rumination develop MDD. We hypothesize that certain emotional processes weaken the rumination-depression link, protecting people against increases in depression. In the current prospective longitudinal study, we examined one such process, emotion differentiation—the ability to identify and label specific emotions. Because higher negative emotion differentiation (NED) has been associated with greater psychological well-being and people typically ruminate in the context of negative affect, we predicted that NED, but not positive emotion differentiation (PED), would moderate the rumination-depression association, such that rumination would only predict increases in depression when negative emotions are less, not more, differentiated. Over one week of experience sampling, 65 community-dwelling adults (Mean age=38.4 years) repeatedly reported their emotions—from which we computed intraclass correlation coefficients to represent NED and PED. Participants completed self-report measures of rumination and depression at baseline and a measure of depression six months later. Regression analyses suggested that both NED and PED interacted with rumination to predict significant changes in depression. As expected, rumination predicted significant increases in depression when negative emotions were less, not more, differentiated. Results held after controlling for mean negative emotion intensity. Rumination did not predict depression at either low or high levels of PED. We are one of the first to show long-term benefits of emotion differentiation, particularly NED, in adults, highlighting its adaptive features and suggesting NED as a potential treatment target for depression.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Renee Thompson, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Committee Members

Tammy English, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Mike Strube, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences


Permanent URL: