Reconsidering the metacognitive model of depression using an adaptationist perspective to rumination
The metacognitive model of depression attributes the development and maintenance of depression to the beliefs individuals hold about rumination. Empirical support for this model has proven somewhat inconsistent and necessitates further research. Since individuals with depression often believe rumination is helpful, a novel approach could involve merging its relevant predictions with the evolutionary analytical rumination hypothesis (ARH), which views depressive rumination as an adaptive cognitive process. Specifically, depressive symptoms promote causal analysis of the problems that triggered the episode (CA), followed by an analysis of possible solutions to the problems (PSA), which then exerts negative feedback onto depressive symptoms. The aim of this study was to explore the relevance of positive and negative metacognitive beliefs about rumination (PMBR and NMBR, respectively) in the context of the ARH. A sample of 352 undergraduate students from McMaster University completed self-reported questionnaires assessing depression severity, analytical rumination, and metacognitions. NMBR and PMBR were both positively correlated with depression and CA, but only PMBR was correlated with PSA. In addition, when NMBR was added to the cyclical model described above, it inhibited CA (p<.001); when PMBR was added to the cyclical model, it promoted CA (p=.07). These results suggest that depressive rumination is promoted by PMBR and inhibited by NMBR. This study has implications for better understanding the mechanisms involved in depression, which can ultimately aid in improving early intervention and treatment modalities for those in need.