Eye movements in negative, positive and non-emotional memories


In this presentation we will briefly summarize research on the role of eye movements (EM) in negative, positive and neutral images. We will discuss the results in light of the working memory hypothesis and discuss important clinical implications.
EM in negative images: There are numorous studies (laboratory as well as clinical) that demonstrate that eye movements reduce the vividness and emotionality of negative images. This effect is larger for eye movements than for tones. It is also related to the working memory capacity of the individual. Bilaterality (alternating between left and right) seems less important. We will discuss how clinicians can use these findings during EMDR sessions.
EM in positive images: EM during the recall of positive memories make these memories less positive during further recalls. This is in line with the working memory hypothesis. It has also important clinical implications. First, disfuncional positive memories can be desensitised (e.g. memories leading to craving, paraphilia, impuls control disorders). Second, EM may be counterproductive in procedures like the safe place and Resource Development and Installation (RDI).
EM in neutral images. A recent study demonstrated that the fading effect of EM in positive and negative memories is not found in non-emotional memories. This suggests the importance of sufficient arousal during EMDR and is related to the fact that stress-hormones (i.c. norepinephrine) are necessary for consolidation and reconsolidation of memories. Implications for the working memory hypothesis and for clinical practice will be discussed.






Hellen Hornsveld

Original Work Citation

Hornsveld, H. (2014, June). Eye movements in negative, positive and non-emotional memories. In EMDR research symposium (France Haour, Chair). Symposium presented at the 15th EMDR Europe Association Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland



“Eye movements in negative, positive and non-emotional memories,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed July 16, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/22875.

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