How Trauma Changes Memory

The traditional static view of trauma memory holds that memories for such events are fixed and relatively unchanging over time. A more recent dynamic view proposes that memory for potential trauma, like memory for ordinary events, changes with time. A study published in Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy examined predictions from these competing theories in repeated assessments of high exposed survivors of the September 11th (9/11) attacks. Memory was assessed using both standardized questionnaires and a free recall paradigm. These data and a measure of posttraumatic stress were obtained at 7 and 18 months post-9/11. Results showed that survivors' recollections of 9/11 varied between assessment points and were moderated by their trajectory of posttraumatic stress. Individuals who were either resilient or recovered over time created a more benign memory of the event over time, whereas individuals who experienced chronic posttraumatic stress had relatively unchanging memories. For the abstract.  

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