The scars of memory: a prospective, longitudinal investigation of the consistency of traumatic and positive emotional memories in adulthood
We conducted a prospective study with individuals who first described their memories of both a recent traumatic and a highly positive emotional experience in 2001-2002. Of the 49 subjects interviewed after 3 months, 29 were re-interviewed after 3.45 to 5.0 years. Subjects answered questions from a 12-item consistency questionnaire (maximum possible score of 36), rated the qualities of their memories, and completed questionnaires concerning the impact of the trauma. Results indicated that traumatic memories (including memories for violence) were highly consistent (M = 28.04) over time relative to positive memories (M = 17.75). Ratings of vividness, overall quality, and sensory components declined markedly for positive memories but remained virtually unchanged for traumatic memories. The severity of traumatic symptoms diminished over time and was unrelated to memory consistency. These findings contribute to understanding of the impact of trauma on memory over long periods.
Porter, S., & Peace, K. A. (2007). The scars of memory: A prospective, longitudinal investigation of the consistency of traumatic and positive emotional memories in adulthood. Psychological Science, 18, 435-441.
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