Meta-Analysis of the Association Between Autobiographical Memory Specificity and Exposure to Trauma

Tom J. Barry, Bert Lenaert, Dirk Hermans, Filip Raes, James W. Griffith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Cognitive models of emotional disorders suggest that reduced autobiographical memory specificity that results from exposure to traumatic events may play an important role in the aetiology and maintenance of these disorders. However, there has yet to be a comprehensive meta-analysis of the association between trauma exposure and memory specificity, and the role of posttraumatic stress symptoms on this association. We searched PsycINFO and MEDLINE databases and extracted data from studies regarding the mean number or proportion of specific memories that participants with and without trauma exposure recalled on the Autobiographical Memory Test. We also extracted data on differences between groups in terms of posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms, along with data on trauma timing and participants’ ages at the time of assessment. The effect size of memory specificity between participants with and without exposure to trauma was large, d = 0.77, and differed significantly from zero, p <.001. In metaregression, trauma timing was a significant predictor of the heterogeneity in trauma-exposure specificity effect sizes, but posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms were not. Compromised memory specificity represents an important cognitive consequence of trauma exposure that might have an important influence on risk for, and maintenance of, subsequent emotional pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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