Autobiographical Memories for Very Negative Events: The Effects of Thinking about and Rating Memories.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats


In three related experiments, 250 participants rated properties of their autobiographical memory of a very negative event before and after writing about either their deepest thoughts and emotions of the event or a control topic. Levels of emotional intensity of the event, distress associated with the event, intrusive symptoms, and other phenomenological memory properties decreased over the course of the experiment, but did not differ by writing condition. We argue that the act of answering our extensive questions about a very negative event led to the decrease, thereby masking the effects of expressive writing. To show that the changes could not be explained by the mere passage of time, we replicated our findings in a fourth experiment in which all 208 participants nominated a very negative event, but only half the participants rated properties of their memory in the first session. Implications for reducing the effects of negative autobiographical memories are discussed.






Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Rubin, David C, Adriel Boals and Kitty Klein (2010). Autobiographical Memories for Very Negative Events: The Effects of Thinking about and Rating Memories. Cognit Ther Res, 34(1). pp. 35–48. 10.1007/s10608-008-9226-6 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



David C. Rubin

Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

For .pdfs of all publications click here

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.

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.