Written cues provoke involuntary cognitions about a trauma analogue

Jacinta Oulton, Melanie Takarangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


After trauma people commonly experience intrusive memories and involuntary elaborative cognitions, such as imagined future events. Involuntary elaborative cognitions differ from intrusive memories because they involve the construction of a novel scenario, rather than the retrieval of a specific past event. Presenting multiple, unrelated cues together—compared to isolated cues—might elicit more elaborative cognitions by encouraging the extraction of distinct memory traces to construct a novel event. Conversely, isolated cues might elicit more intrusive memories by encouraging retrieval of a specific memory. We investigated these ideas using a vigilance task consisting of written cues. Participants viewed negative photos and then viewed either no cues, single cues (e.g., knife), or cues presented together as randomly selected triplets (e.g., skull sick hunger). Cues encouraged involuntary cognitions. However, frequency of intrusive memories and involuntary elaborative cognitions did not depend on whether cues were presented singularly or as triplets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-279
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Intrusions
  • Involuntary cognitions
  • Trauma


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