People's memories for traumatic experiences supposedly lack “coherence.” Yet scientific evidence does not conclusively support these claims—instead, the evidence is mixed. We hypothesized this mixed evidence occurs because coherence is not a stable property of an individual memory, and is sensitive to momentary attributions depending on how that memory is retrieved. In Experiment 1 we asked 1640 people to bring to mind a memory that was either positive, negative, important, or traumatic, and then to either simply describe that event, or answer many specific questions about it. Those who answered specific questions rated their memories as less coherent than those who provided descriptions. In Experiment 2 with 886 people, these effects persisted regardless of people's reported PTSD symptoms. Across both experiments, we found no evidence to suggest traumatic memories feel incoherent. Our results suggest coherence is sensitive to momentary attributions, depending on how a memory is retrieved.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 2020|
- Autobiographical memory
- Memory coherence
- Traumatic memories