Impairments in mental model construction and benefits of defocused attention: Distinctive facets of subclinical depression

Ulrich von Hecker , Grzegorz Sędek , Aneta Brzezicka


In this article, we examine the hypothesis that cognitive deficits in subclinical depression become especially evident in tasks that require the integration of piecemeal information into more coherent mental representations, such as mental models. It is argued that in states of subclinical depression, attempts at integrative thinking or problem solving are limited by cognitive exhaustion which prevents the use of effective cognitive strategies. This basic argument is illustrated by paradigms addressing the construction of mental models based on sentiment or linear order information. It is shown that subclinical depression is associated with a distinct deficit in integrative reasoning, but no deficits in non-integrative processing such as initial information sampling or memory retrieval. Recent evidence of a neurophysiological correlate of this specific deficit in subclinical depression is discussed in terms of the moderating role of frontal alpha asymmetry, and in terms of a specific pattern of parietal brain activation during processing of mental models. Also, a distinctive, not deficit-related, facet of depressed cognitive symptoms is proposed, indicating a possible adaptive value of defocused attention in subclinically depressed mood. This defocused attention approach is supported by experimental and eyetracking research, and by recent theoretical models and empirical evidence showing performance benefits in depression for some cognitive and creative tasks.
Author Ulrich von Hecker
Ulrich von Hecker,,
, Grzegorz Sędek (Wydział Psychologii)
Grzegorz Sędek,,
- Wydział Psychologii
, Aneta Brzezicka (Wydział Psychologii)
Aneta Brzezicka,,
- Wydział Psychologii
Journal seriesEuropean Psychologist, ISSN 1016-9040, (A 30 pkt)
Issue year2013
Publication size in sheets0.55
Keywords in Englishdepression, mental models, defocused attention
ASJC Classification3200 General Psychology; 1201 Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Languageen angielski
von-Hecker-Sedek-Brzezicka-EP-2013.pdf of 14-09-2015
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Score (nominal)30
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2013 = 0.85; WoS Impact Factor: 2013 = 1.169 (2) - 2013=1.935 (5)
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