The think aloud paradigm reveals differences in the content, dynamics and conceptual scope of resting state thought in trait brooding

Quentin Raffaelli, Caitlin Mills, Nadia Anais de Stefano, Matthias R. Mehl, Kate Chambers, Surya A. Fitzgerald, Ramsey Wilcox, Kalina Christoff, Eric S. Andrews, Matthew D. Grilli, Mary Frances O’Connor, Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although central to well-being, functional and dysfunctional thoughts arise and unfold over time in ways that remain poorly understood. To shed light on these mechanisms, we adapted a “think aloud” paradigm to quantify the content and dynamics of individuals’ thoughts at rest. Across two studies, external raters hand coded the content of each thought and computed dynamic metrics spanning duration, transition probabilities between affective states, and conceptual similarity over time. Study 1 highlighted the paradigm’s high ecological validity and revealed a narrowing of conceptual scope following more negative content. Study 2 replicated Study 1’s findings and examined individual difference predictors of trait brooding, a maladaptive form of rumination. Across individuals, increased trait brooding was linked to thoughts rated as more negative, past-oriented and self-focused. Longer negative and shorter positive thoughts were also apparent as brooding increased, as well as a tendency to shift away from positive conceptual states, and a stronger narrowing of conceptual scope following negative thoughts. Importantly, content and dynamics explained independent variance, accounting for a third of the variance in brooding. These results uncover a real-time cognitive signature of rumination and highlight the predictive and ecological validity of the think aloud paradigm applied to resting state cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number19362
JournalScientific reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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