Remembering the Details: Effects of Emotion

Department of Psychology, Boston College.
Emotion Review (Impact Factor: 2.9). 02/2009; 1(2):99-113. DOI: 10.1177/1754073908100432
Source: PubMed


Though emotion conveys memory benefits, it does not enhance memory equally for all aspects of an experience nor for all types of emotional events. In this review, I outline the behavioral evidence for arousal's focal enhancements of memory and describe the neural processes that may support those focal enhancements. I also present behavioral evidence to suggest that these focal enhancements occur more often for negative experiences than for positive ones. This effect of valence appears to arise because of valence-dependent effects on the neural processes recruited during episodic encoding and retrieval, with negative affect associated with increased engagement of sensory processes and positive affect leading to enhanced recruitment of conceptual processes.

Download full-text


Available from: Elizabeth A Kensinger, Jul 23, 2014
  • Source
    • "It is important to state that although emotion is expected to have an enhancing effect on memory in general, in this case, there appears to be a discrepancy between the enhanced subjective sense of recollection and memory for contextual details of emotional ma- terial. When emotion's effect on contextual and relational information are examined, a specific pattern emerges: emotion enhances source memory for the features that are perceptually bound to the item while it impairs contextual/relational details that are not inherent to the item (see Chiu, Dolcos, Gonsalves, & Cohen, 2013, on opposing effects of emotion on contextual or relational memory; see Kensinger, 2009, for a review on emotion's effects on remembering the details). For instance, it has been shown that the font color or spatial location information of emotional items are remembered better than neutral items (D'Argembeau & Van der Linden, 2005; Doerksen & Shimamura, 2001; Mather & Nesmith, 2008). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A major determinant of forgetting in memory is the presence of interference in the retrieval context. Previous research has shown that proactive interference has less impact for emotional than neutral study material (Levens & Phelps, 2008). However, it is unclear how emotional content affects the impact of interference in memory. Emotional content could directly affect the buildup of interference, leading to reduced levels of interference. Alternatively, emotional content could affect the controlled processes that resolve interference. The present study employed the response deadline speed-accuracy trade-off procedure to independently test these hypotheses. Participants studied 3-item lists consisting of emotional or neutral images, immediately followed by a recognition probe. Results indicated a slower rate of accrual for interfering material (lures from previous study list) and lower levels of interference for emotional than neutral stimuli, suggesting a direct impact of emotion on the buildup of interference. In contrast to this beneficiary effect, resolution of interference for emotional material was less effective than neutral material. These findings can provide insight into the interactions of emotion and memory processes. (PsycINFO Database Record
    Emotion 10/2015; DOI:10.1037/emo0000069 · 3.88 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Discrimination between old and new action events was larger for emotional than for neutral events for both younger and older adults, demonstrating that emotion enhanced memory for actions regardless of age. There was a nonsignificant trend for negative emotion to enhance memory for actions more than positive emotion which is consistent with Kensinger's (2009) hypothesis that negative emotion enhances memory more than positive emotion. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: When remembering an event, it is important to remember both the features of the event (e.g., a person and an action), and the connections among features (e.g., who performed which action). Emotion often enhances memory for stimulus features, but the relationship between emotion and the binding of features in memory is unclear. Younger and older adults attempted to remember events in which a person performed a negative, positive, or neutral action. Memory for the action was enhanced by emotion, but emotion did not enhance the ability of participants to remember which person performed which action. Older adults were more likely than younger adults to make binding errors in which they incorrectly remembered a familiar actor performing a familiar action that had actually been performed by someone else, and this age-related associative deficit was found for both neutral and emotional actions. Emotion increased correct recognition of old events for older and younger adults but also increased false recognition of events in which a familiar actor performed a familiar action that had been performed by someone else. Thus, although emotion may enhance memory for the features of an event, it does not increase the accuracy of remembering who performed which action.
    Cognition and Emotion 09/2015; in press. DOI:10.1080/02699931.2014.996530 · 2.52 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "It is known that emotion is important for memory recall : for example , memories that are emotional are even easier to recall than memories that have been specifically attempted to be remembered ( Heuer and Reisberg , 1990 ) . Similarly , emotional memories ( regardless of valence ) are recalled better than neutral ones ( although there are differential effects for negative and positive emotions : Kensinger , 2009 ) . Walker ( 2009 ) notes that emotional memories are retained , though the emotion itself is reduced over time . "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In this paper we propose an emotion assimilation function of sleep and dreaming. We offer explanations both for the mechanisms by which waking-life memories are initially selected for processing during sleep, and for the mechanisms by which those memories are subsequently transformed during sleep. We propose that emotions act as a marker for information to be selectively processed during sleep, including consolidation into long term memory structures and integration into pre-existing memory networks; that dreaming reflects these emotion assimilation processes; and that the associations between memory fragments activated during sleep give rise to measureable elements of dream metaphor and hyperassociativity. The latter are a direct reflection, and the phenomenological experience, of emotional memory assimilation processes occurring during sleep. While many theories previously have posited a role for emotion processing and/or emotional memory consolidation during sleep and dreaming, sleep theories often do not take enough account of important dream science data, yet dream research, when conducted systematically and under ideal conditions, can greatly enhance theorizing around the functions of sleep. Similarly, dream theories often fail to consider the implications of sleep-dependent memory research, which can augment our understanding of dream functioning. Here, we offer a synthesized view, taking detailed account of both sleep and dream data and theories. We draw on extensive literature from sleep and dream experiments and theories, including often-overlooked data from dream science which we believe reflects sleep phenomenology, to bring together important ideas and findings from both domains.
    Frontiers in Psychology 08/2015; 6(1132). DOI:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01132 · 2.80 Impact Factor
Show more