Reconstructing alcohol-induced memory blackouts

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Abstract

Many people who drink alcohol have experienced a blackout; whereby they are unable to recall events that occurred during a period of intoxication. Following these blackout episodes individuals may attempt to reconstruct what happened to them. Blackouts therefore afford an excellent opportunity to study the strategies people use to reconstruct forgotten experiences. We conducted a survey of university students to explore how people choose to reconstruct blackouts, and the likely accuracy of these reconstructions. Our findings add to the growing research literature on people's strategies for validating their past experiences, and highlight the important role of external sources in the reconstruction process. The data show that people's desire to "fill in the blanks" can lead them to rely on rather unreliable sources, and may also encourage them to adopt weaker source-monitoring criteria. Indeed, in at least some cases reconstructing blackouts appears to lead to the development of false beliefs or memories.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-573
Number of pages8
JournalMemory
Volume19
Issue number6
Early online date15 Sep 2011
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

    Keywords

  • alcohol, amnesia, autobiographical memory, strategies

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