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Malignant memories: Post-traumatic changes in memory in adults after a school shooting

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Journal of Traumatic Stress


The study explores changes in retrospective reports of experiences after a man-made disaster. Six and 18 months after a school shooting, 12 school personnel recalled in identical self-report questionnaires their proximity to the site, and emotional, including life threat, and sensory experiences the day of the incident. All changed some aspect of their recall on retest. Those close to the shooting increased and those far decreased their reported proximity to the site; and most respondents both enlarged and diminished at the same time reports of specific emotional, life threat, and sensory experiences. Enlargement on retest appeared associated with PTSD symptoms, while diminishment with lessening of anxiety and depression and increase in self confidence. The authors offer these preliminary findings for further inquiry into the biopsychological basis of post-traumatic memory.

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Schwarz, E.D., Kowalski, J.M. & McNally, R.J. Malignant memories: Post-traumatic changes in memory in adults after a school shooting. J Trauma Stress 6, 545–553 (1993).

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