Traumatic Memories: Empirical Foundations, Forensic and Clinical Implications

Mary P Koss, Shannon Tramp, Melinda Tharan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


This article reviews empirical research on memories for negative personal experiences among adults. It examines basic concepts (including neural underpinnings), theoretical models of the affect‐memory relationship, and data from three sources: victims or witnesses to crimes and atrocities, “flashbulb memories” for traumatic events, and laboratory simulations of shocking experiences. Evidence suggests that memories for traumatic experiences contain more central than peripheral detail, are reasonably accurate and well‐retained for very long periods, but are not completely indelible. Assertions of eyewitness memory's vulnerability to change through suggestion have overstated the evidence. Forensic and clinical implications are discussed and a plea issued for more study of the memory phenomena that characterize posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are the focus of trauma survivors’ treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-132
Number of pages22
JournalClinical Psychology: Science and Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1995


  • Traumatic memories
  • forensic psychology
  • posttraumatic stress disorder
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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