Encoding disorganized memories for an analogue trauma does not increase memory distortion or analogue symptoms of PTSD

Daisy Segovia, Deryn Strange, Melanie Takarangi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    Background and Objectives: Empirical studies with objective measures and control conditions have failed to demonstrate disorganization; yet people tend to self-report disorganization in their trauma narratives, which may have other effects. Thus, we investigated whether a disorganized trauma memory produces more analogue PTSD symptoms and memory distortion, compared to an organized memory. Methods: Participants watched a traumatic film with missing scenes. Some saw the scenes in their correct temporal sequence; others saw a random sequence; thus for some participants we implanted a disorganized memory. We also told some participants to focus on the meaning of the event (conceptual), some on the sensory details (data-driven), and some received no instruction (control). Participants recorded their intrusions for a week. Then, they reported analogue symptoms and we tested their memory for the film and their confidence in what they remembered. Results: Analogue symptoms and number of reported intrusions did not differ across conditions, nor did the degree of memory distortion or confidence in those memories. However, participants who self-reported feeling more memory disorganization reported more avoidance symptoms and more memory distortion. Limitations: We did not measure memory for real trauma, nor did we assess for a history of PTSD. Our results may also be restricted to temporal disorganization. Conclusions: Although objective assessments of disorganization do not appear important, people's feelings regarding the disorganization of their memories not only affect their assessment of the severity of their PTSD symptoms, but also the kinds of memory errors they make.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)127-134
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


    • Analogue trauma
    • Data-driven versus conceptual encoding
    • Disorganized memories
    • Traumatic memory distortion


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