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BACKGROUND: Self-critical thinking is common across psychological disorders. This study hypothesized that it may play an important role in 'overgeneralization', the process of drawing general implications from an isolated negative experience. AIMS: To explore the impact of two experimental tasks designed to elicit self-critical thoughts on the endorsement of general negative self-views of clinical and non-clinical populations. METHOD: Three groups (depression, eating disorders and non-clinical controls), completed standardized questionnaires and the two tasks. Participants rated their self-critical thinking and general negative self-beliefs before and after each task. RESULTS: Following a failure experience, both clinical groups showed a greater increase in general negative self-views compared with controls, indicating greater overgeneralization. Both habitual and increases in state self-critical thinking were associated with overgeneralization while negative perfectionism was not. Overgeneralization was more strongly associated with post-task reduced mood than self-criticism. CONCLUSIONS: Self-critical thinking may be an important factor in the process of overgeneralization, and the increase in general negative self-views may be particularly crucial for lowering of mood.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Cogn Psychother

Publication Date





510 - 523


Self-criticism, depression, eating disorders, overgeneralization, perfectionism