Memory & Cognition

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 125–134 | Cite as

Memory for how one learned of multiple deaths from AIDS: Repeated exposure and distinctiveness



Studies of memories for the circumstances in which an emotional event was learned of have generally explored isolated, single-occurrence events—for example, the Kennedy assassination. Such factors as the event’s distinctiveness, its personal importance, its surprise, the elicited emotional change, and overt rehearsal have been posited as predictors of the memory’s vividness and elaborateness. We examined whether these predictor variables would apply to a repeated trauma, using the repeated nature of the trauma to test, in particular, the contribution of distinctiveness. Focusing on the multiple deaths of loved ones from AIDS that many gay men have experienced, we contrasted the vividness and elaborateness of the circumstantial memory of the first death encountered with that of the most recent death, treating distinctiveness as the number of intervening deaths. In an analysis of responses by 80 gay men to a survey, no support was found for the claim that distinctiveness predicts a circumstantial memory’s vividness or elaborateness. Only emotional change predicted these characteristics of the memories.


Close Friend Emotional Event Emotional Memory Emotional Change Recent Memory 

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehman CollegeCity University of New YorkBronx
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Graduate FacultyNew School UniversityNew York

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