Bessel A. Van der Kolk and Rita Fisler conducted a study which tested Pierre Janet's compilation of trauma studies on how trauma is recalled. Trauma has been argued about due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD makes emotional trauma to be hard to approximate.
The Study's goal was to retrieve traumatic memories through significant non-traumatic memories. There were 46 patients who passed mental disorder tests. They were given a lengthy questionare which would be used as a tool to study them. They had to describe traumatic events in detail, wit circumstances and sensory details. They had to repeate the process with non-traumatic memories. The problem with the scoring of this information was that the researchers could not find a blind rating system that would separate traumatic and non-traumatic memory.
Results showed that 35 patients experiences childhood trauma and 10 had trauma after the age of 18. Non-trauma memories weren't vivid an nonsensical. Childhood and adult sense recall was similar in levels. 41 were able to tell a story about the event but 5 weren't able to make a coherent narrative. The study then goes into different findings for different types of recall.
The conclusions found in the study are that: Sensory input caused unconscious construction of a narrative. Most trauma is imprinted as sensation, just like PTSD. Vivid memories might not be accurate due to how the brain processes information. The formation of a narrative creates an explicit memory which can be exaggerated or condensed. The researchers confirmed Pierre Janet's collection of trauma studies.
I found it interesting how people can't connect non-traumatic memories to senses. I don't thick that is true for the most part. I remember how things smell and feel when I think of a memory. I've had plenty of occasions where I smelled a certain perfume or cologne, and remembered a person that I have met in the past. Their explanation on how sensory memories can dilute due to the brain processing it as a narrative was really interesting. Sometimes I try to retell an event and I feel like the situation isn't done justice because my mind simplifies it down to something different. I'm wondering how much of the study was influenced by the lack of a blind scoring system. I was a little disappointed by how they presented the comparison of traumatic and non-traumatic events. I thought that they were going to try and unlock bad memories through good events; almost like creating a comfortable context that the mind can process in order to unlock buried memories.
This article shows reconstructive memory through trauma. It gives a good example about how people can claim that they can give a solid story, but end up twisting it around or complicated. I hope the part about how the mind condenses memories is studied further. That could effect a lot of eye witness testimonies in a really bad way.