Affect, Pain, and Autobiographical Memory

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Twenty-five young female undergraduates were tested on two occasions: once when they were experiencing menstrual pain of at least moderate severity and once when they were pain free. On each occasion, Ss rated their current levels of pain and affect and retrieved real-life events from their personal past. At the end of the second occasion, Ss were reminded of all of the events they had retrieved on either occasion, and then rated the pleasantness of these events at the time of their original occurrence. Results revealed that the impact of pain on autobiographical memory was wholly mediated by its influence on mood. That is, pain impeded access to memories of pleasant personal experiences, whereas it promoted the retrieval of unpleasant events only if pain was accompanied by an increase in unpleasant affect. Discussion centers on the clinical and cognitive implications of the present results, and on prospects for future research.

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