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10-04-2020 | Original Article

Gender differences in the experienced emotional intensity of experimentally induced memories of negative scenes

Psychological Research
Søren Risløv Staugaard, Dorthe Berntsen
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s00426-020-01334-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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It is well documented that women have an increased risk of emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Such disorders are typically characterized by intrusive memories and rumination of past events, but findings are mixed as to whether women have enhanced access to memories of emotional events. Some studies have found that women, compared with men, report more frequent and more intense memories of emotionally stressful events, whereas other studies have failed to replicate this effect. These conflicting findings may reflect the use of different memory sampling techniques (e.g., retrospective vs. experimental data) and limited control for factors associated with both gender and emotional memory. The purpose of the present study was to investigate gender differences in memory for emotionally negative events, using three different sampling methods, while at the same time controlling for parameters that might co-vary with gender. Consistent with some previous studies, we found that women and men did not differ in their frequencies of emotionally negative involuntary memories. However, women rated their memories as more intense and arousing than men did, and women also reported higher increases in state anxiety after retrieval. Female gender accounted for unique variance in the emotional intensity and subjective arousal associated with negative memories, when controlling for other theoretically derived variables. The findings provide evidence that female gender is associated with a stronger emotional response to memories of negative events, but not that women remember such events more frequently than men do.

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