Background and Objectives: Rumination, a maladaptive cognitive style of responding to negative mood, is thought to be maintained by a variety of cognitive biases. However, it is unknown whether rumination is characterized by interpretation biases.
Methods: Two experiments examined the link between rumination and interpretation biases, revealed in lexical-decision tasks (LDT). A homograph with both benign and ruminative or otherwise negative meaning was presented on each trial and followed by a letter string, to which participants responded by judging whether it was a word or a non-word. Letter strings were nonwords or words related or unrelated to one meaning of the homograph.
Results: In both experiments, faster latencies to respond to targets related to the ruminative meaning of the homographs were produced by students with higher scores on self-report measures of rumination. Moreover, these biases were associated with both brooding, the maladaptive form of rumination, and reflection, the more adaptive component. No measure of rumination was significantly correlated with general biases toward negative meaning (Experiment 1) or with threatening interpretations of homographs (Experiment 2).
Limitations: The paucity of available rumination-related homographs dictated the use of nonfully randomized stimuli presentation (Experiment 1) or the use of only one set of the meanings associated with the homographs (Experiment 2).
Conclusions: Rumination is associated with a tendency to interpret ambiguous information in a rumination-consistent manner. This tendency may exacerbate ruminative thinking and can possibly be a target for future intervention.