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Assessing the specificity of autobiographical memory in individuals at a trait-based vulnerability to bipolar disorder using a sentence completion task

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2014
Issue number3
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)222-231
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date28/03/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Overgeneral autobiographical memory recall has been associated with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, but the role of overgenerality in the vulnerability to bipolar disorder remains under-researched. While a previous study suggested that high-risk individuals for bipolar disorder recall emotionally negative memories in specific detail, this is in contrast to memory recall patterns noted in bipolar samples. The Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) used in previous non-clinical studies has also been criticised for not being sensitive to overgenerality due to its repetition of specificity instructions and practice trials. The traditional AMT format may allow some individuals to override their trait-based tendencies to be overgeneral. The current study used a sentence completion task to assess memory specificity in groups of students at a low and high trait-based vulnerability for bipolar disorder. In contrast to previous research, high-risk individuals recalled fewer specific positive memories and greater numbers of overgeneral negative memories than low-risk individuals. These results support the notion that the vulnerability for bipolar disorder might be associated with similar recall biases as demonstrated in bipolar samples, and that the AMT might not be sufficiently sensitive to detect overgenerality in non-clinical groups. The implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.