Memory for pictures of sexual assault : Sensitive maintenance of ambiguous stimuli

Faculty/Professorship: Educational Psychology  
Author(s): Peters, Jan H.  ; Hock, Michael  
Title of the Journal: PLOS ONE
ISSN: 1932-6203
Corporate Body: Public Library of Science
Publisher Information: San Francisco, California, USA
Year of publication: 2020
Volume: 15
Issue: 7
Pages: 19
Language(s): English
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236873
Individual differences in dispositional coping might influence how ambiguous situations involving interactions of men and women are interpreted and remembered. Specifically, we hypothesized that women with a sensitive coping style actively maintain ambiguously threatening stimuli in their memory, showing so-called sensitive maintenance. As a prerequisite to investigate this hypothesis, two surveys (Studies 1 and 2; N = 151 and N = 252) were conducted to answer the questions whether fear of sexual assault is of relevance for young women in Germany and whether ambiguous (rather than only unambiguously threatening) situations are experienced to a significant extent. After confirming this for our target population, our main hypothesis was tested in Study 3 (N = 192) by combining tasks assessing the appraisal and the forgetting of nonthreatening, threatening, and ambiguous pictures showing interactions of men and women, and by varying the cognitive load during the retention interval. Whereas fear of rape predicted the appraisal of pictures, coping dispositions predicted forgetting of ambiguously and unambiguously threatening pictures in the hypothesized way. Results are discussed from the perspective of adaptivity and functionality of memory.
Keywords: rape, sexual assault, memory, vigilance, anxiety, cognition, behavior, emotions
Peer Reviewed: Ja
International Distribution: Ja
Open Access Journal: Ja
Type: Article
Release Date: 16. January 2023
Project: Open-Access-Publikationsfonds 2012-2020