Objectives. We examine the proposal that social problem-solving in depression may be improved with the retrieval of specific autobiographical memories.
Design and methods. Social problem-solving was assessed with the Means-End Problem-Solving task (MEPS; Platt & Spivack, 1975a). Depressed and non-depressed participants were required either to retrieve a specific memory prior to generating a MEPS solution (primed condition) or to report on the memories retrieved during MEPS performance after giving their MEPS solution (non-primed condition). Participants also judged whether the memories retrieved had been helpful or unhelpful for the process of solution generation.
Results. In both depressed and non-depressed individuals, priming increased specific memory retrieval but did not improve MEPS performance. An interaction between depression and priming revealed that priming increased the retrieval of helpful memories in the depressed sample.
Conclusions. Specificity is not, in itself, a sufficient retrieval aim for successful social problem-solving. However specific memory priming may be beneficial in depression because it facilitates the recognition of memories which are helpful for problem-solving.