What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Psychological trauma and its relationship to enhanced memory control.

Control processes engaged in halting the automatic retrieval of unwanted memories have been shown to reduce the later recallability of the targets of suppression. Like other cognitive skills that benefit from practice, we hypothesized that memory control is similarly experience dependent, such that individuals with greater real-life experience at stopping retrieval would exhibit better inhibitory control over unwanted memories. Across two experiments, we found that college students reporting a greater history of trauma exhibited more suppression-induced forgetting of both negative and neutral memories than did those in a matched group who had reported experiencing little to no trauma. The association was especially evident on a test of suppression-induced forgetting involving independent retrieval cues that are designed to better isolate the effects of inhibitory control on memory. Participants reporting more trauma demonstrated greater generalized forgetting of suppressed material. These findings raise the possibility that, given proper training, individuals can learn to better manage intrusive experiences, and are broadly consistent with the view that moderate adversity can foster resilience later in life. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)