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Reduced specificity of autobiographical memory has been well established in depression, but whether this ‘overgenerality’ extends to future thinking has not been the focus of a meta-analysis. Following a preregistered protocol, we searched six electronic databases, Google Scholar, personal libraries, and contacted authors in the field for studies matching search terms related to depression, future thinking, and specificity. We reduced an initial 7,332 results to 46 included studies, with 89 effect sizes and 4,813 total participants. Random effects meta-analytic modelling revealed a small but robust correlation between reduced future specificity and higher levels of depression (r = .13, p less than .001). Of the 11 moderator variables examined, the most striking effects related to the emotional valence of future thinking (p less than .001) and the sex of participants (p = .025). Namely, depression was linked to reduced specificity for positive (but not negative or neutral) future thinking, and the relationship was stronger in samples with a higher proportion of males. This meta-analysis contributes to our understanding of how prospection is altered in depression and dysphoria and, by revealing areas where current evidence is inconclusive, highlights key avenues for future research.
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