Autobiographical memory, autobiographical knowledge, and post-traumatic stress disorder (1996)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
The proposal that the information contained in a traumatic event can be differentially processed and that maladaptive processing will result in the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the basis of current information processing theories of the disorder. This thesis proposes that in order for information processing theories of PTSD to account for the current research findings into the processing of traumatic information they need to consider the nature and structure of peoples' memories for personally significant events (Autobiographical Memories), and by doing so, it is hoped to demonstrate the utility of memory processes for understanding the development and maintenance of PTSD. Chapter One considers the diagnosis and symptoms of PTSD and focuses on the current research into PTSD and memory. Recent experiments have found that people with PTSD attend to threat-relevant information in a biased manner, which is possibly determined by the current (life-goal) concerns for that individual. Such attentional biases interfere with a persons ability to perform other cognitive tasks and may be the basis for the re-experiencing of traumatic events which is a central symptom of PTSD. As well PTSD patients are characterised by an overgeneral memory for other non-traumatic events. An inability to recall non-traumatic memories may be partially responsible for the maintenance of the disorder and it has been suggested by researchers that overgeneral memory is related to emotional numbing in PTSD (another primary symptom of the disorder). Chapter Two evaluates information processing theories of PTSD in terms of how they account for memory processes. The main finding of this evaluation is that while information processing theories implicitly implicate memory processes and structures they do not explicitly attempt to account for them. Chapter Three considers the current findings of theory and research into the organisation and structure of Autobiographical Memory and the ways in which these factors are represented in information processing and in the processing of information from traumatic events in particular. This study concludes that motivations, emotions, and self concepts are used to encode, store and retrieve information about personally significant events and are central to the processing variables involved in PTSD. These variables are evidenced through the research into PTSD and memory and by the work on the organisation and structure of autobiographical memory. Lastly areas for future research and theory are identified.
KeywordsAutobiographical memory.; Post-traumatic stress disorder
RightsAll Rights Reserved
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