Publication Date

Fall 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Mark Van Selst


CaR-FA-X model, Depression, Memory encoding, Minimal instructions autobiographical memory test, Overgeneral memory, PTSD

Subject Areas

Psychology; Cognitive psychology; Clinical psychology


Overgeneral memory (OGM) is a phenomenon of reduced autobiographical memory specificity observed in major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Individuals demonstrating OGM tend to describe past events generally rather than specifically recalling single memory occurrences. Research shows that OGM is perpetuated by three mechanisms: capture in the memory hierarchy due to trait rumination (CaR), functional avoidance of specific memory retrieval (FA), and impaired executive control (X), which together make up the CaR-FA-X model of OGM. Research on the CaR-FA-X model has historically looked at each mechanism in isolation. The current research aimed to compare the contributions of all three mechanisms to a measure of OGM, as well as to investigate possible interactions between the mechanisms, and compare the contributions of the CaR-FA-X model to those of an encoding predictor. Psychometric data on the three CaR-FA-X mechanisms, autobiographical memory specificity, cognitive attributional style, and mental health were collected from 107 undergraduate psychology students via online surveys, then analyzed in a hierarchical linear regression model. Executive control explained significant unique variance in OGM, with rumination making an indirect contribution. No other anticipated contributions from the CaR-FA-X model or memory encoding were observed. Methodological issues in non-clinical and computerized OGM research are highlighted.