Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

Ellen Flannery-Schroeder


The vast literature on trauma and revictimization suggests that it is still relatively unknown as to why some people are more susceptible to re-experiencing trauma. Research suggests that women with previous histories of sexual victimization are at increased risk for revictimization. Increasingly, studies have demonstrated that women with histories of sexual assault took significantly longer to recognize risk as compared to non-victimized women. However, the research on risk recognition has focused almost exclusively on sexually victimized women. Extant studies however, have not examined risk recognition in a more diverse group of traumatized individuals nor the potential contributions of cognitive biases to risk recognition deficits. The current study examined the role of attention and memory biases in risk recognition in a sample of young adults with no, some, and multiple incident trauma histories. Participants were 312 college students at a large, northeastern university. They completed a packet of self-reported questionnaires, an attentional dot probe task, and a recall and recognition memory task. Participants received extra credit in their undergraduate psychology course for their participation. Participants were categorized into one of three conditions: individuals with no, some, and multiple trauma histories. Data were analyzed by MANOV As and chisquare analyses. Results found no evidence to support the hypothesis that multiply traumatized individuals are more likely than individuals with some or no trauma histories to demonstrate risk recognition deficits. This finding emerged for both attention and memory tasks aimed at assessing biases to threat-related words as a way of evaluating risk recognition. Such results suggest that traumatized individuals are not characterized by memory and attention biases to threat, contributing to the growing body of literature supporting that these effects do not exist. The limitations of this study, implications of these findings, and future directions for this line of research are discussed.



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