Episodic repetitive thought: Dimensions, correlates, and consequences

Suzanne C. Segerstrom, Annette L. Stanton, Sarah Mc Queary Flynn, Abbey R. Roach, Jamie J. Testa, Jaime K. Hardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Repetitive thought (RT) - attentive, prolonged, or frequent thought about oneself and one's world - plays an important role in many models of psychological and physical ill health (e.g., rumination and worry), as well as models of recovery and well-being (e.g., processing and reminiscing). In these models, repetitive thought is typically treated as stable or trait-like. In contrast, episodic RT reflects what people have "on their minds" at a particular point in time. In four studies, young women (N=94), college students (N=166), first-year law students (N=73), and older adults (N=174) described their episodic RT, which was then rated for qualities including valence, purpose, and theme. Episodic RT valence was associated with mood and depressive symptoms both between (Studies 1-4) and within people (Studies 3-4), and it mediated the effects of dispositional coping through emotional approach (Study 1). The effect of episodic RT valence in turn was moderated by other properties of episodic RT, including purpose, "trait" valence, and theme (Studies 1-4). The study of episodic RT complements that of trait RT and allows for observations of how RT and psychological adjustment change in concert and in context, as well as examining how the RT qualities that are not reflected in trait measures affect adjustment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalAnxiety, Stress and Coping
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Templeton Foundation, the Dana Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health (MH61531-R01), and the National Institute on Aging (AG026307-R01 and AG028383-P30).


  • depression
  • emotional approach coping
  • negative affect
  • positive affect
  • repetitive thought

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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