Emotional negative events do not protect against false memories in young adults with depressive–anxious personality traits

Negatively charged events are often remembered with high accuracy and are less prone to memory distortions; however, whether this applies to individuals with high emotional involvement, it is not well understood.


To explore this issue, the present study investigated whether an internalizing depressive–anxious trait affected the occurrence of inferential memory errors for emotional vs. neutral events. A recognition memory paradigm consisting of pictorial scripted material was presented to two groups of young adults: one with high scores at the depression–anxiety scales and one control group. Results showed an increased proportion of causal false memories (i.e., inferring the not seen cause of a viewed effect) in the depressive–anxious group when the encoded events were negative but not when they were neutral. Most important, when these false memories occurred, they were characterized by a recollective experience. Conversely, in control participants negative material was found to protect against memory distortions compared to neutral material. Results are discussed in light of previous research on memory distortions in individuals with emotional disturbances and highlight the possibilities offered by using a new paradigm for studying false memories.

Personality and Individual Differences, 2014, 66, 14-18

Published Apr. 14, 2014 8:30 AM