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Intrusive memories of a traumatic event can be reduced by a subsequent interference procedure, seemingly sparing voluntary memory for that event. This selective-interference effect has potential therapeutic benefits (e.g., for emotional disorders) and legal importance (e.g., for witness testimony). However, the measurements of intrusive memory and voluntary memory typically differ in the role of associations between a cue and the emotional memory "hotspots." To test this, we asked participants to watch a traumatic film followed by either an interference procedure (reminder plus Tetris) or control procedure (reminder only). Measurement of intrusions (using a laboratory task) and voluntary memory (recognition for film stills) were crossed with the presence or absence of associative cues. The reminder-plus-Tetris group exhibited fewer intrusions despite comparable recognition memory, replicating the results of prior studies. Note that this selective interference did not appear to depend on associative cues. This involuntary versus voluntary memory dissociation for emotional material further supports separate-trace memory theories and has applied advantages.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Psychol Sci

Publication Date





1128 - 1143


PTSD, intrusive memories, involuntary memory, memory consolidation, mental imagery, open data, open materials, trauma