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Selectively Interfering With Intrusive but Not Voluntary Memories of a Trauma Film: Accounting for the Role of Associative Memory

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Henson, Richard N. 
Holmes, Emily A. 


Intrusive memories of a traumatic event can be reduced by a subsequent interference procedure, seemingly sparing voluntary memory for that event. This selective-interference effect has potential therapeutic benefits (e.g., for emotional disorders) and legal importance (e.g., for witness testimony). However, the measurements of intrusive memory and voluntary memory typically differ in the role of associations between a cue and the emotional memory “hotspots.” To test this, we asked participants to watch a traumatic film followed by either an interference procedure (reminder plus Tetris) or control procedure (reminder only). Measurement of intrusions (using a laboratory task) and voluntary memory (recognition for film stills) were crossed with the presence or absence of associative cues. The reminder-plus-Tetris group exhibited fewer intrusions despite comparable recognition memory, replicating the results of prior studies. Note that this selective interference did not appear to depend on associative cues. This involuntary versus voluntary memory dissociation for emotional material further supports separate-trace memory theories and has applied advantages.



Empirical Articles, intrusive memories, involuntary memory, mental imagery, memory consolidation, trauma, PTSD, open data, open materials

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Clinical Psychological Science

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SAGE Publications


Embargo: ends 2021-05-06
Oak Foundation (OCAY-18-442)
Medical Research Council (MC-A060-5PR50)
Medical Research Council (SUAG/010 RG91365)
Vetenskapsrådet (2017-00957)