Trauma-exposed people commonly exhibit a “memory amplification” effect, endorsing exposure to more traumatic events over time. Studies reporting this phenomenon have typically relied on checklists, where participants read event descriptions and indicate (yes/no) their exposure. We examined whether that approach is vulnerable to response biases and memory errors. In two experiments, participants viewed negative photos and completed an Old-New recognition test. In Experiment 1, participants completed either a photo recognition test or description test—composed of written descriptions of negative photos. In Experiment 2, we measured analogue PTSD symptoms and participants completed the description test twice, 24 hr apart. Those in the description test condition performed worse on the memory test and were more biased to endorse negative photos compared with the photo test condition. Furthermore, this bias to endorse negative photos increased over time and was related to analogue PTSD symptoms. Overall, our findings suggest that test format plays a role in memory amplification.
- response bias
- posttraumatic stress disorder