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Trait Dissociation and the Subjective Affective, Motivational, and Phenomenological Experience of Self-Defining Memories


  • This research was supported in part by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging, NIH.

concerning this article should be addressed to Angelina R. Sutin, PhD, Laboratory of Personality and Cognition, National Institute on Aging, NIH, DHHS, 251 Bayview Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21224. Email:


Abstract The present research reports 2 studies that examine the relation between nonpathological trait dissociation and the subjective affect, motivation, and phenomenology of self-defining memories. In Study 1 (N=293), participants retrieved and rated the emotional and motivational experience of a general and a positive and negative achievement-related memory. Study 2 (N=449) extended these ratings to relationship-related memories and the phenomenological experience of the memory. Dissociation was associated with incongruent affect in valenced memories (e.g., positive affect in a negative memory) and memories that were visually incoherent and saturated with power motivation, hubristic pride, and shame, regardless of valence or domain. The present findings demonstrate that autobiographical memories, which integrate emotional, motivational, and phenomenological components, reflect the emotional and motivational processes inherent to dissociation.