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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Media trauma in civilians is linked to intrusive imagery-based memory symptoms. We investigated whether mental imagery of the 9/11 terrorist attacks following media exposure is dampened by taxing working memory (WM). METHODS: Forty-five young adult UK residents, who were exposed to the 9/11 terrorist attacks as children via the media, identified a personally-relevant mental image of the attacks. They were then randomly allocated to: (1) recall + Tetris, (2) recall + eye movements (EMs), or (3) recall-only. Ratings on imagery vividness and emotionality were provided at three time points: pre-, post-manipulations, and at 24-hr follow-up. RESULTS: Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed that recall + Tetris and recall + EMs (relative to recall-only) significantly reduced imagery vividness and emotionality from pre- to post-manipulations, but not to follow-up. LIMITATIONS: A passive control group is needed to fully rule out the role of natural memory decay; the follow-up was exploratory and took place outside the laboratory with reduced experimental control. CONCLUSIONS: Aversive memory imagery from media trauma in civilians can be dampened by taxing WM, at least temporarily, which could be therapeutically useful. The use of such cognitive techniques may also hold relevance for public health approaches to address the impact of collective trauma.

Original publication




Journal article


Anxiety Stress Coping

Publication Date





423 - 436


EMDR, Mental imagery, PTSD, intrusive memories, media trauma, secondary trauma, Child, Humans, Memory, Short-Term, Mental Recall, Pilot Projects, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Terrorism, United Kingdom, Young Adult