Memory and coping with stress: the relationship between cognitive-emotional distinctiveness, memory valence, and distress.
Cognitive-emotional distinctiveness (CED), the extent to which an individual separates emotions from an event in the cognitive representation of the event, was explored in four studies. CED was measured using a modified multidimensional scaling procedure. The first study found that lower levels of CED in memories of the September 11 terrorist attacks predicted greater frequency of intrusive thoughts about the attacks. The second study revealed that CED levels are higher in negative events, in comparison to positive events and that low CED levels in emotionally intense negative events are associated with a pattern of greater event-related distress. The third study replicated the findings from the previous study when examining CED levels in participants' memories of the 2004 Presidential election. The fourth study revealed that low CED in emotionally intense negative events is associated with worse mental health. We argue that CED is an adaptive and healthy coping feature of stressful memories.