A Meta-Analytic Review of Overgeneral Memory: The Role of Trauma History, Mood, and the Presence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

M. Ono, G.J. Devilly, Ho Keung David Shum

Research output: Journal article publicationLiterature reviewAcademic researchpeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 American Psychological Association. A number of studies suggest that a history of trauma, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are associated with autobiographical memory deficits, notably overgeneral memory (OGM). However, whether there are any group differences in the nature and magnitude of OGM has not been evaluated. Thus, a meta-analysis was conducted to quantify group differences in OGM. The effect sizes were pooled from studies examining the effect on OGM from a history of trauma (e.g., childhood sexual abuse), and the presence of PTSD or current depression (e.g., major depressive disorder). Using multiple search engines, 13 trauma studies and 12 depression studies were included in this review. A depression effect was observed on OGM with a large effect size, and was more evident by the lack of specific memories, especially to positive cues. An effect of trauma history on OGM was observed with a medium effect size, and this was most evident by the presence of overgeneral responses to negative cues. The results also suggested an amplified memory deficit in the presence of PTSD. That is, the effect sizes of OGM among individuals with PTSD were very large and relatively equal across different types of OGM. Future studies that directly compare the differences of OGM among 4 samples (i.e., controls, current depression without trauma history, trauma history without depression, and trauma history and depression) would be warranted to verify the current findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • depression
  • Meta-analysis
  • overgeneral memory
  • PTSD
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology

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