Autobiographical memories of anxiety-related experiences.

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Ninety-nine undergraduate students retrieved three memories associated with each of the five emotional experiences: panic, trauma, worry, social anxiety, and feeling content. Subsequently, they answered 24 questions assessing properties of each memory, including the vividness and perceived accuracy of the memories and sensory, emotional, and anxiety-related experiences during retrieval. Memories were coded for affective tone and specificity. Results indicated that panic-related and trauma-related memories were rated similarly as content memories, but that they generally were associated with more imagery and emotional experiencing than worry-related or social anxiety-related memories. Participants experienced panic and worry symptoms to the greatest degree when they retrieved panic-related and trauma-related memories. All anxiety-related memories were characterized by more negative tone than content memories. Panic-related and trauma-related memories were more specific than worry-related, social anxiety-related, and content memories. These findings can explain partially why individuals with some, but not all, anxiety disorders experience enhanced memory for threatening material.





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Wenzel, Amy, Keri Pinna and David C Rubin (2004). Autobiographical memories of anxiety-related experiences. Behav Res Ther, 42(3). pp. 329–341. 10.1016/S0005-7967(03)00142-6 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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