Exploring the mechanism underlying the working memory account of EMDR: The effect of fading in and fading out of negative and arousing images on emotionality, vividness, completeness and detail recall of traumatic memories
Bok, D. de
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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychological intervention for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Currently, the working memory account gives the best explanation for the functionality of EMDR. This account states that conducting a dual task, mostly horizontal eye movements, while retrieving a traumatic memory will make this memory less emotional, vivid and complete. It was hypothesized that the fading in and/or fading out of traumatic images are in itself causally contributing to the reduced emotionality, vividness and completeness of the recalled memories. This experimental study (N=27) examined the fading in (the image starts vague and gets more clear) and fading out (the image starts clear and gets more vague) of traumatic images as an underlying mechanism of the working memory account. By using a within-subject design, participants engaged in three conditions (fading in, fading out and control) in which they had to rate their memories on emotionality, vividness and completeness. A detail recall test was also conducted for all conditions. No significant differences were found between the three conditions on emotionality, vividness and completeness. However, a trend was found indicating that fewer details were recalled in the fading out condition. Based on these results, the hypothesis that fading in or fading out will result in diminishing emotionality, vividness and completeness was not confirmed. Shortcomings of the experiment and implications for future research are addressed.