We investigated whether boundary restriction—misremembering proximity to traumatic stimuli—is a form of memory amplification and whether reexperiencing trauma plays a role in boundary restriction errors. In four experiments, subjects viewed a series of traumatic photographs. Later, subjects identified the photographs they originally saw among distracters that could be identical, close-up, or wide-angled versions of the same photographs. Subjects also completed measures of mood, analogue PTSD symptoms, phenomenological experience of intrusions, and processing style. Across experiments, subjects were more likely to incorrectly remember the photographs as having extended boundaries: boundary extension. Despite this tendency, the extent to which subjects reexperienced traumatic aspects of the photographs predicted how often they incorrectly remembered the photographs as having narrower boundaries: boundary restriction. Our data suggest that although boundary extension is more common, boundary restriction is related to individual differences in coping mechanisms posttrauma. These results have theoretical implications for understanding how people remember trauma.
- Cognition and emotion