Memory and coping with stress: the relationship between cognitive-emotional distinctiveness, memory valence, and distress.

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Cognitive-emotional distinctiveness (CED), the extent to which an individual separates emotions from an event in the cognitive representation of the event, was explored in four studies. CED was measured using a modified multidimensional scaling procedure. The first study found that lower levels of CED in memories of the September 11 terrorist attacks predicted greater frequency of intrusive thoughts about the attacks. The second study revealed that CED levels are higher in negative events, in comparison to positive events and that low CED levels in emotionally intense negative events are associated with a pattern of greater event-related distress. The third study replicated the findings from the previous study when examining CED levels in participants' memories of the 2004 Presidential election. The fourth study revealed that low CED in emotionally intense negative events is associated with worse mental health. We argue that CED is an adaptive and healthy coping feature of stressful memories.





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Boals, Adriel, David C Rubin and Kitty Klein (2008). Memory and coping with stress: the relationship between cognitive-emotional distinctiveness, memory valence, and distress. Memory, 16(6). pp. 637–657. 10.1080/09658210802083098 Retrieved from

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David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

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My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory and oral traditions, as well as prose. I have also studied memory as it is more commonly done in experimental psychology laboratories using lists. In addition to this purely behavioral research, which I plan to continue, I work on memory in clinical populations with the aid of a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study PTSD and on the underlying neural basis of memory the aid of a National Institute of Aging grant to study autobiographical memory using fMRI.

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