Valence-related impairments in the retrieval of specific autobiographical memories amongst patients with schizophrenia

Tom J. Barry, Francisco Del Rey, Jorge J. Ricarte

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11 Citations (SciVal)


Objectives: People with schizophrenia have difficulty recalling specific autobiographical events from their past. However, the nature of this difficulty (e.g., whether these problems are only for memories that are negative or positive) and the mechanisms associated with it remain poorly understood. Methods: The present investigation asked patients with schizophrenia (n = 91) and healthy controls (n = 109) to recall memories related to several positive and negative cue words. Participants also completed self-report measures of rumination and depressive symptoms and a measure of verbal fluency to assess executive functioning. Participants' memories were coded for specificity (whether or not they referred to a specific event lasting <24 hr) and valence (positive vs. negative). Results: Patients recalled fewer specific memories than controls and they showed particular difficulty recalling specific negative memories cued by negative words. For healthy controls, impoverished verbal fluency was associated with recall of fewer specific memories and particularly recall of fewer positive specific memories. These variables were unrelated to specificity amongst patients. Rumination was not associated with specificity in either group. Conclusions: These findings are discussed with reference to other mechanisms that might contribute towards reduced specificity in schizophrenia, such as the tendency to avoid negative affect, and the implications of this for interventions for schizophrenia and memory specificity problems. Practitioner points: The experience of schizophrenia is associated with problems recalling specific events from one's past. In particular, patients have difficulty recalling specific negative memories from their past. These memory problems are independent of executive functioning difficulties, ruminative tendencies, and also depression symptoms. Interventions for memory problems in schizophrenia must target the difficulty people have in recalling specific negative events.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-153
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019


  • depression
  • executive functioning
  • overgeneral memory
  • rumination
  • verbal fluency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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