Thinking about the consequences: The detrimental role of future thinking on intrapersonal problem-solving in depression

Noreen, Saima
Dritschel, Barbara
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Peer reviewed
Despite the fact that depressed individuals encounter a multitude of social problems in daily life, research on social problem-solving has largely been dominated by research on interpersonal problems and there is a paucity of research on intrapersonal problems. Intrapersonal problems are linked to one's subjective psychological functioning and involve managing one's own feelings and emotions pertaining to the self. Given that depressed individuals exhibit impaired emotion regulation, it is possible that their ability to solve intrapersonal problems may be impaired, especially in relation to future thinking. The aim of this study was to investigate whether future thinking, in the form of thinking about the consequences of a problem being resolved or remaining unresolved has an impact on intrapersonal problem-solving in depression. Forty-five depressed and fifty-four non-depressed participants completed a modified version of the means end problem-solving task (MEPS). In the task, participants were presented with a series of intrapersonal problems and were asked to generate consequences of the problems being resolved or remaining unresolved. Participants were then presented with a positive resolution to each of the problems and were asked to solve the problem to achieve the positive resolution. Following a delay, participants were asked to recall all of the consequences initially generated. Overall, depressed individuals generated fewer-relevant means and less effective solutions to problems than non-depressed participants. Depressed individuals also demonstrated impaired intrapersonal problem-solving following the generation of resolved and unresolved consequences, compared to a baseline condition, where no consequences were generated. These findings suggest that future thinking impairs intrapersonal problem-solving and indicates that a more nuanced approach to future thinking and social problem-solving in depression is needed across different real-life problem-solving contexts.
open access article
Noreen, S. and Dritschel, B. (2023) Thinking about the consequences: The detrimental role of future thinking on intrapersonal problem-solving in depression. PloS one, 18 (8), e0289676
Research Institute
Institute for Psychological Science