Null's the word: A comparison of memory quality for intensely negative and positive events

Theodore E.A. Waters, Jennifer G. Bohanek, Kelly Marin, Robyn Fivush

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Research comparing memories of traumatic and positive events has produced inconsistent results. Complicating the issue, researchers employ a variety of measures (e.g., narrative or questionnaire) that make comparison across studies difficult. Further, this research has been criticised for lacking adequate statistical controls (Sotgiu & Mormont, 2008). Our study employed both narrative and questionnaire methodologies and compared memories for highly negative and positive events while controlling for retention interval, intensity of the event, and word count in the narrative measures. A total of 108 racially diverse college undergraduates wrote narratives and completed the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire about the most negative and the most positive event they had experienced, and memories were assessed for narrative coherence, language indicative of cognition, insight and sensory experience, subjective ratings of clarity, sensory detail, contextual detail, temporal detail, and the inclusion of thoughts and feelings. Results indicate no differences between memories for highly negative and positive events when retention interval and emotional intensity are controlled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)633-645
Number of pages13
JournalMemory
Volume21
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2013

Keywords

  • Autobiographical memory
  • Emotion
  • Memory quality
  • Trauma
  • Valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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