Effects of rumination and distraction on inhibition

Tal Ganor*, Nilly Mor, Jonathan D. Huppert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background and objectives: Rumination involves fixating on negative content, is associated with biases in inhibitory control, and typically worsens negative mood. In contrast, distraction attempts to engage attentional control and downregulate negative mood. To date studies have not dissociated the detrimental effects of rumination from beneficial effects of distraction on individuals’ ability to inhibit irrelevant negative information. Moreover, research has not examined the possible pathways connecting rumination and distraction, negative mood and inhibitory control. Methods: To bridge these gaps, we report two studies that assess the effect of induced rumination versus distraction on inhibitory control among high ruminators. Results: In Study 1 distraction improved inhibition of negative content, whereas induced rumination impaired inhibition of negative content. Study 2 replicated Study 1 and demonstrated that the effect of distraction on inhibition of negative content was mediated by changes in negative mood. Limitations: Our studies are limited by small sample sizes and lack of measurement of possible long-term effects. Conclusions: Our findings provide preliminary evidence for an effect of mood on inhibition and not vice versa, among high ruminators. We discuss theoretical and clinical implications of these findings.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number101780
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

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  • Cognitive control
  • Distraction
  • Inhibition
  • Rumination


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