Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



Advisor 1

Christopher L. Heavey, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Russell H. Hurlburt

Second Committee Member

Murray Millar

Graduate Faculty Representative

Stephen Fife

Number of Pages



The Response Styles Theory of Depression states that there are two main responses to depression: distraction and rumination. Though it is believed distraction helps to alleviate feelings of dysphoria, the theory suggests rumination actually prolongs and intensifies episodes of depression (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990, 1991). Rumination is also believed to play a role in the higher rates of depression seen in women (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990, 1991). In 1987, Nolen-Hoeksema created the Response Styles Questionnaire (RSQ) as a measure to identify those who tend to use distraction or rumination as a psychological response to feelings of sadness or depression. The goal of this study was to examine the inner experience of participants who endorsed engaging in rumination as a response to dysphoric feelings to determine if the construct of rumination could be observed within their inner experiences. We recruited four participant who scored 2 standard deviations above the mean on the rumination subscale of the RSQ (High Rumination Group) and two participants who scored at or near the mean on the rumination subscale of the RSQ (Average Rumination Group; Nolen-Hoeksema, 1987). Using Descriptive Experience Sampling over a period of three to four days, we examined a total of 107 moments of inner experience from the six participants. Using three raters not otherwise involved in the study, the extent to which each moment contained rumination was rated. The overall valence of each moment of experience was also rated. We also examined the inner experience of each individual to determine the extent to which there were any salient characteristics. Rumination was rated as present to some extent in just under half of the samples. Rumination and valence were found to be highly correlated, which could indicate of lack of specificity in the two constructs. The two groups did differ in terms of the salient characteristics of their inner experiences: those in the High Rumination Group were found to have higher frequencies of feelings and unsymbolized thinking. Finally, there was a very strong correlation between the rumination subscale of the RSQ and a measure of global psychological distress, suggesting further investigation of the construct of rumination may be worthwhile. Overall, there appears to be some differences within the inner experiences of those who report ruminating when feeling dysphoric or depressed. Further investigation with a larger number of participants could enlighten psychological practices.


Descriptive experience sampling; Distraction; Inner experiences; Response styles theory of depression; Rumination


Clinical Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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