Ruminative Responses Scale
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About the Ruminative Responses Scale
Rumination involves repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress, as well as on the causes and consequences of these symptoms (Nolen-Hoeksema et al. 2008). Although people who ruminate often do so with the belief that they are solving a problem, a habitual tendency to ruminate is associated with increased sadness, distress, and anxiety. Rumination is a well-known cognitive vulnerability mechanism for depression (Nolen-Hoeksema 2000; Nolen-Hoeksema and Morrow 1991; Robinson and Alloy 2003).
In other words, if ruminative thinking is not actively targeted in treatment, significant research has shown it will result in slower symptom reduction and can lead to a poorer response to therapy. Therefore, it is important to measure rumination at regular intervals across time in order to elucidate changes in rumination and gain insight into developments in the course of individuals’ treatment over time.
The most widely used measure of rumination is the Ruminative Response Scale (RRS; cf. Treynor et al. 2003). The scale measures the tendency to use ruminative thinking when being in a negative mood and is derived from the Response Styles Theory by Nolen-Hoeksema (1987). This theory implies a bidirectional, within-person link between rumination and distress in the sense that rumination increases distress and distress increases rumination (Nolen Hoeksema and Morrow 1993; Lyubomirsky and Tkach 2004; see also Moberly and Watkins 2008).
Two distinct styles of rumination, with distinct functional properties and consequences, have been reported. Brooding entails self-criticism and negative evaluations of one’s current status in comparison to some standard. Reflection is related to more active problem solving—thoughts are used to overcome some difficulty.
Even though the RRS is a well-validated questionnaire, with acceptable between-person reliabilities of the brooding and reflection subscales (α = .77 and .72, respectively, Treynor et al. 2003), the whole scale is rather long (22 items) and is most suitable in the assessment of a general tendency to ruminate when in a negative mood.
Put differently, this measure has not been adapted to measure within-person variation regarding the tendency to ruminate across a relatively brief period of time (e.g., days or weeks). It is therefore not yet appropriate for repeated, frequent use during the course, for example, of psychotherapeutic intervention. Also, to our knowledge, no other measure of within-person variation in rumination exists that captures brooding and reflection reliably, albeit various investigations of rumination at the within-person level.
For example, rumination was measured with one or two items only in various experience sampling studies (e.g., Brans et al. 2013; Moberly and Watkins 2008), and it was also measured with six items from the RRS in one study (Genet and Siemer 2012). However, none of these studies provided information on the within-person reliability of the scale, nor did it explicitly touch the issue of validity.
An exception is a study by Newman and Nezlek (2019). They measured rumination and reflection with three items each, the items stemming from the trait Rumination-Reflection Questionnaire (Trapnell & Campbell, 1999). They could report acceptable reliability only for the rumination subscale (within-person alpha = .78), but for the reflection subscale; within-person alpha was .59, even after the attempt to improve reliability by deleting one item from the scale.
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