Judgments of Memory Coherence Depend on the Conditions Under Which a Memory is Retrieved, Regardless of Reported PTSD Symptoms

Andrea Taylor, Kayla Jordan, Rachel Zajac, Melanie K.T. Takarangi, Maryanne Garry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-409
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

Keywords

  • Attributions
  • Autobiographical memory
  • Memory coherence
  • PTSD
  • Traumatic memories

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