The integration of emotions in memories: Cognitive-emotional distinctiveness and posttraumatic stress disorder



The current study examined cognitive-emotional distinctiveness (CED), the extent to which emotions are linked with event information, in memories associated with PTSD. Participants either with PTSD (n = 68) or without PTSD (n = 40) completed a modified multidimensional scaling technique to measure CED for their most negative and most positive events. The results revealed that participants in the PTSD group evidenced significantly lower levels of CED. This group difference remained significant when we limited the analysis to traumatic events that led to a PTSD diagnosis (n = 33) in comparison to control participants who nominated a traumatic event that did not result in PTSD (n = 32). Replicating previous findings, CED levels were higher in memories of negative events, in comparison to positive events. These results provide empirical evidence that memories associated with PTSD do contain special organizational features with respect to the links between emotions and memory. Implications for understanding and treating PTSD are discussed. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.