Memories are subject to change, just as anyone comparing childhood stories with a sibling or arguing about past events with a significant other knows.
The way we respond to our memories varies, too, says UNCG’s Dr. Blair Wisco, assistant professor of psychology. She gives the example of an Iraq War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“He may be struggling with vivid memories of a trauma, like the death of a fellow service member. In therapy the veteran might tell his psychologist exactly what the roadside improvised-explosive device looked like,” she says. Ideally, each time he talks about the memory in his therapist’s office, it will bother him a little bit less.
“But if that same veteran, driving down the road, were to see a discarded trash bag resembling an IED, he might experience an entirely different – possibly much stronger – emotional response in that setting,” Wisco explains. And unless psychologists have a tool to measure that real-world response, they have no definitive way to track the progress of their PTSD treatment.
This post was sampled from a UNCG Research Magazine story written by Robin Sutton Anders. To read the full story and more, click here.