DOI: 10.1111/tops.12726 ISSN: 1756-8757

Modeling Effects of Rumination on Free Recall Using ACT‐R

Anmol Gupta, Clemens Kaiser, Jonas Everaert, Marieke van Vugt, Partha P. Roy
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


Ruminative thinking, characterized by a recurrent focus on negative and self‐related thought, is a key cognitive vulnerability marker of depression and, therefore, a key individual difference variable. This study aimed to develop a computational cognitive model of rumination focusing on the organization and retrieval of information in memory, and how these mechanisms differ in individuals prone to rumination and individuals less prone to rumination. Adaptive Control of Thought‐Rational (ACT‐R) was used to develop a rumination model by adding memory chunks with negative valence to the declarative memory. In addition, their strength of association was increased to simulate recurrent negative focus, thereby making it harder to disengage from. The ACT‐R models were validated by comparing them against two empirical datasets containing data from control and depressed participants. Our general and ruminative models were able to recreate the benchmarks of free recall while matching the behavior exhibited by the control and the depressed participants, respectively. Our study shows that it is possible to build a computational theory of rumination that can accurately simulate the differences in free recall dynamics between control and depressed individuals. Such a model could enable a more fine‐tuned investigation of underlying cognitive mechanisms of depression and potentially help to improve interventions by allowing them to more specifically target key mechanisms that instigate and maintain depression.

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