Open Access A Comparison of Visual Versus Auditory Concurrent Tasks on Reducing the Distress and Vividness of Aversive Autobiographical Memories

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This study investigated the benefits of eye movement similar to that used in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) on reducing the vividness and emotionality of negative autobiographical memories. It was hypothesized, based on the working memory model, that any task that disrupts working memory would reduce the vividness and emotionality of distressing memories. In addition, it was predicted that the more visual a memory, the greater the reduction in vividness by a concurrent visual task over an auditory task (counting). Thirty-six nonclinical participants were asked to recall an unpleasant autobiographical memory while performing each of three dual-attention tasks: eye movement, listening to counting, or control (short exposure). Results showed that vividness and emotionality ratings of the memory decreased significantly after eye movement and counting, and that eye movement produced the greatest benefit. Furthermore, eye movement facilitated greater decrease in vividness irrespective of the modality of the memory. Although this is not consistent with the hypothesis from a working memory model of mode-specific effects, it is consistent with a central executive explanation. Implications for enhancing exposure treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are discussed.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of EMDR Practice and Research is a quarterly, peer-reviewed publication devoted to integrative, state-of-the-art papers about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a broadly conceived interdisciplinary journal that stimulates and communicates research and theory about EMDR, and their application to clinical practice.
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