The reappearance hypothesis revisited: recurrent involuntary memories after traumatic events and in everyday life.
Recurrent involuntary memories are autobiographical memories that come to mind with no preceding retrieval attempt and that are subjectively experienced as being repetitive. Clinically, they are classified as a symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder. The present work is the first to systematically examine recurrent involuntary memories outside clinical settings. Study 1 examines recurrent involuntary memories among survivors of the tsunami catastrophe in Southeast Asia in 2004. Study 2 examines recurrent involuntary memories in a large general population. Study 3 examines whether the contents of recurrent involuntary memories recorded in a diary study are duplicates of, or differ from, one another. We show that recurrent involuntary memories are not limited to clinical populations or to emotionally negative experiences; that they typically do not come to mind in a fixed and unchangeable form; and that they show the same pattern regarding accessibility as do autobiographical memories in general. We argue that recurrent involuntary memories after traumas and in everyday life can be explained in terms of general and well-established mechanisms of autobiographical memory.