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Abstract

This research compares event memory and autobiographical memory for an event that was experienced to be more distressing, with more significant and widespread consequences than was any other event for which memory has been studied in a large sample. Memory for the events of September 11 was assessed seven weeks later in three samples: (a) 275 college students from Manhattan; (b) 167 college students from California; and (c) 127 college students from Hawaii. Whereas event memory was most accurate in the New York sample most involved in and most distressed by the events, autobiographical memory was reported with the least detail in this sample. This finding is consistent with the prediction that it is the synergy of arousal and rehearsal that affects memory for stressful events. Constructive memory distortions are also evident in the data; 73% of the respondents reported (incorrectly) that on September 11, they saw on television, the videotape of the first plane striking the first World Trade Center tower. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.