Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Stuart Hall

Commitee Members

Allen Szalda-Petree, Greg Machek, Jacqueline Brown, Erin Semmens


Cognitive Rehabilitation, Depression, Errorless learning, Neuropsychology


University of Montana


Despite evidence of verbal memory deficits in people with depression (Goodall et al., 2018), there are currently minimal studies examining the effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation techniques in this population, and no studies examining the effectiveness of errorless learning procedures (EL). Errorless learning eliminates errors during encoding which contrasts with traditional trial-and-error, effortful learning (EF). This paper argues that because the memory deficits in depression are largely due to dysexecutive functioning (Snyder 2013) errorless learning procedures could be beneficial to this population because it helps reduce the burden on executive functioning during encoding and retrieval. Moreover, a newer modification of errorless learning that includes semantically rich cues (i.e., errorless learning plus self-generation EL-SG) was included in this study and hypothesized to produce even greater mnemonic benefit by facilitating deeper elaboration on material. This mixed-design study used a stem-completion task in an MTurk sample of 165 participants (60 non-depressed; 65 depressed) to test proposed hypotheses. Analyses revealed that regardless of depression status, participants performed better on immediate free recall following EL learning, which was consistent with proposed hypotheses. Moreover, as anticipated, EL-SG provided an additive advantage over both EL and EF procedures for immediate and cued recall. A novel finding was that participants preferred selfgeneration procedures far more than the other two learning conditions, which has not yet been examined as a potential mechanism for the errorless learning advantage. In contrast, proposed interaction effects between depression status and learning condition were not observed as there were no memory differences between the depressed and non-depressed group. Additionally, delayed recall performances were not consistent with a priori hypotheses, which may have been due to unanticipated recency effects. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.



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