Repression and the Inaccessibility of Affective Memories

Penelope J. Davis, Gary E. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


The fundamental assumption that repression involves an inaccessibility to affective memories has not been directly addressed in empirical research. In the present study we examined three groups of subjects (repressors, low anxious, and high anxious) under six conditions of recall (general, happy, sad, anger, fear, and wonder). Subjects were asked to recall personal experiences from childhood and to rate their current mood and the affective intensity of the memories. The results indicated that repressors recalled significantly fewer negative memories than did low-anxious and high-anxious subjects and, furthermore, that they were substantially older at the time of the earliest negative memory recalled. Compared with low-anxious subjects, repressors also recalled fewer positive affective memories as well. This pattern of findings is consistent with the hypothesis that repression involves an inaccessibility to negative emotional memories and indicates further that repression is associated in some way with the suppression or inhibition of emotional experiences in general. The concept of repression as a process involving limited access to negative affective memories appears to be valid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-162
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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