Forgetting Trauma: Socially Shared Retrieval-induced Forgetting and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder


Adam D. Brown, Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, 50 First Avenue, OBV-Bldg A, # A645, New York, NY 10016, USA.



Memory for related but unpracticed aspects of an event can be impaired by selectively retrieving parts of the same event. This occurs when selective retrieval [within-individual retrieval-induced forgetting (WI-RIF)] is undertaken by individuals and has been extended to social contexts—RIF can be produced in listeners [socially shared retrieval-induced forgetting (SS-RIF)] by a speaker's selective recounting. The effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on WI-RIF and SS-RIF were examined by two experiments. In Experiment 1, combat veterans (with or without PTSD) and non-veteran dyads participated in a RIF paired-associates paradigm adapted for combat-related stimuli. WI-RIF and SS-RIF occurred for combat-related and neutral pairs regardless of group. However, greater WI-RIF and SS-RIF for combat-related words were shown by individuals with PTSD. These findings were replicated by Experiment 2, in which either a combat-related or neutral story was learned by participants, and selective retrieval was embedded in a conversation. That the selective retrieval of trauma-related stimuli leads to enhancement of induced forgetting for individuals with PTSD under certain conditions is suggested by these data. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.