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J Psychol. 2008 Sep;142(5):449-69. doi: 10.3200/JRLP.142.5.449-470.

Similarities and differences between traumatic and emotional memories: review and directions for future research.

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  • 1University of Turin, Department of Psychology, Via Verdi 10, Torino 10124, Italy. sotgiu@psych.unito.it

Abstract

The authors review theory and empirical research on the characteristics of memories for traumatic versus emotional events, with the goal of bringing together the cognitive and clinical perspectives on this issue. They consider the most important approaches to the study of traumatic and emotional memory and summarize the results of recent studies that have compared autobiographical recollections of traumatic and nontraumatic emotional experiences (positive and negative), either in nonclinical or clinical samples. Overall, findings from the current empirical literature are inconsistent. Although some researchers have found that traumatic memories are retrieved differently than are emotional memories, others have demonstrated that the phenomenological characteristics of these memory types are highly similar. The authors discuss methodological issues that could help researchers to interpret the inconsistencies found in the empirical findings. Last, they suggest possible directions for future research that may advance researchers' knowledge of memory, trauma, and emotion.

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