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The impact of perceived self-efficacy on memory for aversive experiences

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Self-efficacy is a key construct underlying healthy functioning and emotional well-being. Perceptions of uncontrollability, unpredictability, and low self-efficacy are consistently associated with negative mental health outcomes, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To test the causal relation between perceived coping self-efficacy and stress responses we employed a trauma film paradigm in which college students (N=33) viewed a graphic film of the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident following a high (HSE) or low self-efficacy (LSE) induction. Participants were tested for intrusions, distress, and memory recall for the film over the following 24 hours. LSE participants recalled more central details than HSE participants. Further, HSE participants reported fewer negative intrusions immediately following the film and at 24 hours. These findings suggest that strategies that increase perceived coping self-efficacy may reduce intrusive recollections of an aversive event, and also reduce the attentional bias associated with remembering aversive stimuli.
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Keywords: Intrusions; Memory; Post-traumatic stress; Self-efficacy; Trauma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA 2: School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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