A theoretical framework for understanding recovered memory experiences

Nebr Symp Motiv. 2012:58:149-73. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-1195-6_5.


If recovered memory experiences appear counter-intuitive, this is in part due to misconceptions about trauma and memory, and to a failure to adopt a comprehensive model of memory that distinguishes personal semantic memory, autobiographical event memory, and memory appraisal. Memory performance is generally superior when events, including traumas, are central to identity. Prolonged trauma in childhood, however, can produce severe identity disturbances that may interfere with the encoding and later retrieval of personal semantic and autobiographical event information. High levels of emotion either at encoding or recall can also interfere with the creation of coherent narrative memories. For example, high levels of shock and fear when memories are recovered unexpectedly may lead to the experience of vivid flashbacks. Memory appraisals may also influence the sense that an event has been forgotten for a long time. Recovered memories, although unusual, do not contradict what we know about how memory works.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Fantasy
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Life Change Events
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Reality Testing
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Self Concept
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Suggestion