Does valence contribute to the effects of dual tasking in aversive autobiographical memory? Some unexpected findings

Tom IJdema*, O.M. Laceulle, Annemiek Karreman, Jolanda de Vries, Kees Korrelboom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objectives
Lab experiments show that engaging in a working memory task while recalling an aversive memory reduces emotionality and vividness of memories. Studies targeting lab induced negative memory with valenced secondary tasks show promise, but work is needed on autobiographical memories to make it more in line with the original dual tasking research and PTSD treatment in clinical populations. In this study, we address this gap by evaluating differential effectiveness of valenced dual tasks on emotionality and vividness of aversive autobiographical memories.

University students (N = 178) recalled an aversive autobiographical memory while rating either positive pictures, negative pictures, or while looking at a cross in the exposure only condition. Participants were randomized to one of three aforementioned conditions and rated their memories before and after each intervention on emotionality and vividness.

Against expectations, memories became more emotional and vivid regardless of condition. With regard to vividness, this effect was characterized by an interaction effect: memories became more vivid in the exposure only condition than in the combined dual tasking conditions. All effect sizes were small.

Working memory load in the dual tasking conditions might have been insufficient.

The current study did not extend findings with regard to (valenced) dual tasking and revealed a possible sensitization effect of script driven autobiographical memory induction. Our study highlights the importance of aspects such as the total amount of exposure and characteristics of memory induction, specifically the addition of a script driven approach to the usual self-initiated memory activation in dual tasking research.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101616
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Dual tasking
  • EMDR
  • Emotional memory
  • Trauma
  • Valence
  • Working memory taxation


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