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Does Working Memory Mediate the Link Between Dispositional Optimism and Depressive Symptoms?



The aim of this study was to explore the interplay between working memory (WM), dispositional optimism, and depressive symptoms in participants across a wide age band (16–79 years) in a nonclinical sample using a computer-based interface. We administered tests of visuospatial WM (processing and recall), dispositional optimism (optimism and pessimism), and self-reported depression. There were two main findings: 1) both optimism and pessimism were independent predictors of a self-rated depression score; 2) WM recall scores predicted both optimism and pessimism. The findings suggest the following pattern: according to the negativity bias, a pessimistic outlook presents as a strong stimulus for attentional allocation, which results in depression. However, a strong WM can counter this pattern, as individuals can allocate attention to the weaker stimulus, which is an optimistic outlook. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.