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Overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM) refers to the tendency to retrieve less specific personal memories. According to the functional avoidance hypothesis, OGM might act as a cognitive strategy to avoid emotionally distressing details of negative memories. In the present study, we investigated the effect of an experimentally induced avoidant state on memory specificity. We primed an avoidant state in half of the participants and an approaching state in the other half by means of a Scrambled Sentences Task (SST). Memory specificity was measured before and after priming. Trait cognitive avoidant coping was assessed prior to the experiment. Analyses indicated that higher trait avoidance was significantly associated with lower memory specificity after the SST and stronger reductions in memory specificity from pre- to post-SST, irrespective of the priming condition. The latter suggests that the SST triggered high avoiders' avoidance schema in both conditions, possibly because it was experienced as a stressor.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychological Record

Publication Date





73 - 84