Cognitive immunization as a maintenance factor of major depression

Period: Aug 09, 2020 - Aug 09, 2020
Status: laufend

In this project, we examine differences between healthy and depressed individuals regarding change of expectations in the light of expectation-disconfirming expectations. Research shows that healthy individuals are able to change negative expectations after gaining positive expectation-disconfirming experiences. Individuals with major depression, however, tend to maintain their negative expectations. To explain this phenomenon, we introduced the concept of cognitive immunization: individuals with major depression cognitively reappraise disconfirming evidence in such a way that expectations are maintained. Given that individuals experiencing depressive symptoms tend to engage in cognitive immunization strategies after unexpected positive experiences, cognitive immunization is considered to be a maintenance factor of major depression. Currently, we are examining how cognitive immunization can be inhibited in psychological interventions to modify dysfunctional expectations in major depression. Further, we are investigating whether cognitive immunization is associated with the occurrence of dysphoric mood. Ultimately, we are interested in whether cognitive immunization processes are more pronounced among individuals with chronic depression compared to episodic depression. Prospectively, we aim to examine whether healthy individuals and individuals with depression do not only differ in their responses to unexpectedly positive experiences, but also to unexpectedly negative experiences.

Project partner

Prof. Dr. Winfried Rief, University of Marburg
Dr. Thomas Gärtner, Schön Klinik Bad Arolsen


University of Marburg Research Funds


Ostbahnstraße 10 (3. OG, 3.1.06); 76829 Landau
+49 6341 280-35652
kube at
Ostbahnstr. 10 (3. OG, 3.1.11), 76829 Landau
+49 6341 280-35645
glombiewski at



Preregistration: Clinical Trials

Kube, T., Rief, W., & Glombiewski, J. A. (2017). On the Maintenance of Expectations in Major Depression – Investigating a Neglected Phenomenon.Frontiers in Psychology, 8(9). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00009

Kube, T., Rief, W., Gollwitzer, M., & Glombiewski, J. A. (2018).Introducing an EXperimental Paradigm to investigate Expectation Change (EXPEC). Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 59,92-99. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2017.12.002.

Kube, T., Rief, W., Gollwitzer, M., Gärtner, T., & Glombiewski, J. A.(2018). Why dysfunctional expectations in depression persist – Results from two experimental studies investigating cognitive immunization.Psychological Medicine, 1-13. doi: 10.1017/S0033291718002106