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Overgeneral autobiographical memory bias in clinical and non-clinical voice hearers

  • Pamela Jacobsen (a1), Emmanuelle Peters (a1) (a2), Thomas Ward (a1), Philippa A. Garety (a1) (a2), Mike Jackson (a3) (a4) and Paul Chadwick (a1)...

Hearing voices can be a distressing and disabling experience for some, whilst it is a valued experience for others, so-called ‘healthy voice-hearers’. Cognitive models of psychosis highlight the role of memory, appraisal and cognitive biases in determining emotional and behavioural responses to voices. A memory bias potentially associated with distressing voices is the overgeneral memory bias (OGM), namely the tendency to recall a summary of events rather than specific occasions. It may limit access to autobiographical information that could be helpful in re-appraising distressing experiences, including voices.


We investigated the possible links between OGM and distressing voices in psychosis by comparing three groups: (1) clinical voice-hearers (N = 39), (2) non-clinical voice-hearers (N = 35) and (3) controls without voices (N = 77) on a standard version of the autobiographical memory test (AMT). Clinical and non-clinical voice-hearers also completed a newly adapted version of the task, designed to assess voices-related memories (vAMT).


As hypothesised, the clinical group displayed an OGM bias by retrieving fewer specific autobiographical memories on the AMT compared with both the non-clinical and control groups, who did not differ from each other. The clinical group also showed an OGM bias in recall of voice-related memories on the vAMT, compared with the non-clinical group.


Clinical voice-hearers display an OGM bias when compared with non-clinical voice-hearers on both general and voices-specific recall tasks. These findings have implications for the refinement and targeting of psychological interventions for psychosis.

Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: Paul Chadwick, E-mail:
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