Memories of positive and negative emotional events

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Abstract

Women's memories of emotional events differing by both valence and intensity were examined for differences in narrative content and structure, as well as subjective memory ratings. Emotional valence was related to the content of the women's narratives, and emotional intensity was related to the subjective ratings of the memories. Negative narratives contained more negative emotion, cognitive processing words, and passive sentences than positive narratives, and positive narratives contained more positive emotion words and were more complex than negative narratives. Intensely negative narratives were the longest and the least complex, and intensely positive narratives were the most coherent. Women rated both intensely negative and intensely positive events, in general, as more frequently talked/thought about, significant, unique, emotional, and vivid than moderately emotional events, and negative events were rated as more emotional than positive narratives. There was little relation between the objective content of the narratives and the women's subjective ratings of their memory experiences. Finally, researcher-defined traumatic events did not differ from other intensely negative events. The results of this study have important implications for narrative research in general, methodological issues such as the validity of text analysis programs and subjective memory ratings, and the quality of traumatic memories. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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