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.

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Available from: Elizabeth A Kensinger, Jul 23, 2014
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    • "Among them, episodic memory dysfunction is one of the most pronounced (Aleman et al., 1999; Heinrichs and Zakzanis, 1998; Pelletier et al., 2005), and has a profound effect on vocational, social and clinical outcome (Lepage et al., 2014). Episodic memory refers to the memory of personal events associated with the spatial-temporal and emotional contexts in which they occurred (Kensinger, 2009; Tulving, 1983). In other words, information is not stored separately in memory but is integrated into a unique and coherent whole. "
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    • "All the theories described were related to arousal of memorized material, and it has been shown that valence alone (in the absence of arousal) is insufficient to enhance remembering of a neutral contextual detail (Guillet and Arndt, 2009). However, negative valence of high-arousal stimuli enhanced memory of context compared with positive valence (for review see Kensinger, 2009) when context directly concerned the content of the stimulus (e.g., font color). Opposing (i.e., impairing) effects of valence on memory for less directly associated context has been explained by dual processing accounts of memory proposing functionally dissociable mechanisms that support item recognition and memory for associations (Diana et al., 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Emotion influences various cognitive processes, such as memory. This beneficial or detrimental effect can be studied with verbal material, yet in this case a broad term of context needs to be taken into account. The present work reviews recent literature and proposes that traditional differentiation between semantic and environmental context should be rather replaced with a novel conceptualization of hippocampus-dependent relational memory and item memory (related to the activations of cuneus and left amygdala). Additionally, instead of list-learning paradigms, words should be memorized in the context of sentences or stories as for better control for their meaning. The recent evidence suggests that of particular importance for ecological validity in research paradigms is the presence of communicative and social context of verbal material related to such processes as theory of mind and brain activations in temporo-parietal junction, posterior cingulate cortex and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex. It is proposed that studying memory of verbal material within context gives a better understanding of enhancing and impairing effects of emotion, as well as of the underlying brain mechanisms. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2015 · The Journal of Comparative Neurology
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    • "This results in enhanced memory for central information at the expense of peripheral details (Christianson & Loftus, 1991), a phenomenon referred to as emotional memory narrowing (Kensinger, 2009) or tunnel memory (Safer, Christianson, Autry, & Osterland, 1998 ). Researchers have documented emotional memory narrowing both in laboratory studies (e.g., Kensinger, 2009) and across a wide range of real-world events including natural disasters (Bahrick, Parker, Fivush, & Levitt, 1998), physical injuries (Peterson & Bell, 1996), and crime scenes (Reisberg & Heuer, 2007). Of particular relevance to criminal investigations, laboratory studies provide evidence of " weapon focus, " in which witnesses focus on and remember the features of a crime scene that threaten safety, such as the weapon used to commit the crime, at the expense of details such as the perpetrator's face or clothing that are of importance to police (Loftus, Loftus, & Messo, 1987; Steblay, 1992). "
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