Implicit measurement of positive and negative future thinking as a predictor of depressive symptoms and hopelessness

Kosnes, Liv and Whelan, Robert and O’Donovan, Aoife and McHugh, Louise A
Consciousness and cognition, 22(3): 898—912, 2013

Research using explicit measures has linked decreased positive future thinking, but not increased negative future thinking, with clinical depression. However, individuals may be unable or unwilling to express thoughts about the future, and can be unaware of implicit beliefs that can influence their behavior. Implicit measures of cognition may shed light on the role of future thinking in depression. To our knowledge, the current study presents the first implicit measure of positive and negative future thinking. A sample of 71 volunteers (38 healthy; 33 with sub-clinical depression) completed both implicit and explicit measures of positive and negative future thinking. The findings indicate differences in the evaluation of both positive and negative future events between the two groups. However, group differences were more pronounced on the implicit measure. These findings point to the potential utility of an implicit measure of future thinking in mental health research and clinical practice.