Coherence, Disorganization, and Fragmentation in Traumatic Memory Reconsidered: A Response to Rubin et al. (2016)

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Abstract

Although clinical theories of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claim that in this condition trauma memories tend to be disorganized and fragmented, this has been disputed by some autobiographical memory researchers, such as Rubin, Berntsen, and their colleagues (e.g., Rubin et al., 2016). In this article I review the evidence for and against the fragmentation hypothesis and identify important sources of methodological variability between the studies. This analysis suggests that fragmentation and disorganization are associated with differences in the type of narrative (specifically, with detailed rather than general narratives) and in the focus of the analysis (specifically, with a local focus on sections of text concerned with the worst moments of the trauma rather than with a global focus on the text as a whole). The implication is that apparently discrepant data and discrepant views can be accommodated within a more comprehensive formulation of memory impairment in PTSD.

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