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The role of imagery rehearsal with and without eye movements in the creation of false memories

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This study explored differences in recall accuracy following experimental manipulations of two elements specific to two common approaches to trauma treatment – inducing saccadic eye movements during imagery rehearsal (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing; EMDR) and imagery rehearsal without eye movements (Imaginal Exposure; IE). The study also looked into whether outcome was related to high suggestibility and distress characteristics. The sample consisted of 48 non-clinical adult participants. The results found no significant difference in false recalls between EMDR and IE. While the EMDR group did make more false recognitions, they also made more correct recalls than the IE group. In effect, those in the EMDR group appear to make more true recalls and more false recollections than those in the IE group.

Irrespective of treatment condition, fewer positive words were recalled and recognized than neutral and trauma words. As well as all subjects displaying no avoidant encoding style for trauma words overall, we also noted no avoidant encoding style as a function of trauma history or treatment condition. Our results argue against the avoidant encoding hypothesis for those with a history of trauma and also suggest a lowered response criterion following EMDR.

Keywords: CBT; EMDR; absorption; dissociation; exposure; false memory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Griffith University, School of Psychology and Griffith Institute of Health & Medical Research, Mt Gravatt, Australia

Publication date: 2011-07-01

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