Katie Thomas

Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

John-Paul Legerski


When comparing performance on the Autobiographical Memory Task (AMT) between individuals who have been exposed to traumatic events and those who have not, individuals exposed to traumatic events tend to provide autobiographical memories that are more often characterized as being overgeneral with relatively fewer memories that reference a particular date or time. Studies have found that post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) may be particularly responsible for this effect. Researchers have posited that this effect may be due to cognitive overload from avoiding negative memories, or from shallow retrieval of the memory in order to avoid further emotional discomfort. Mindfulness training, which encourages acceptance of one's emotions, has been associated with improvements in memory and attention, as well as with reductions in PTSS. The current study utilized an experimental design that randomly assigned 133 participants into two conditions (a brief mindfulness exercise group or control condition) to determine whether exposure to a brief mindfulness exercise prior to completing the AMT moderated the association between PTSS and memory specificity. Although the brief mindfulness exercise condition did produce higher mean scores in state mindfulness, analyses of covariance results showed that neither study condition nor PTSS was shown to impact specificity. Implications and limitations are discussed.