Patients suffering from obsessional personality disorder (anankasts) have been described as possessing ‘superior memories', because of the detailed precision of their accounts. At the same time, such classical phenomena as doubt, checking and rumination imply faulty recall. This paradox is discussed, and some predictions drawn from a hypothesis regarding the cognitive characteristics of obsessional disorder. Findings are presented which indicate that, by comparison with matched psychiatric controls, anankasts do not excel in the long-term recall of factual information or meaningful anecdotal material. But they show the following mnemonic features:
(a) Superiority of immediate memory span, reflecting high levels of attention.
(b) Superior recall of ambiguous anecdotal material, reflecting a tendency to the pointless ‘rehearsal’ of such material.
(c) Weak redintegration in personal reminiscence.
It is suggested that anankasts' doubts about their remembering refer not so much to the correctness of what is being recalled as to the quality of the recalling itself.