The Emotional Significance of Images and their Effects on Memory Performance

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Individuals often perceive emotionally-charged memories as more vivid than boring ones. While this line of thinking is intuitive, does the emotional significance of faces, words, and other stimuli have an actual effect on memory performance? A number of studies have examined this relationship, indicating that emotionally negative and positive stimuli both improve memory performance over neutral stimuli. However, other studies have addressed a number of caveats that add ambiguity to the equation. It is the goal of this paper to investigate and provide clarity toward the relationship between emotion and memory among young adults. Schmidt, Patnaik, and Kensinger (2011) compared the effects of emotional and non-emotional images on memory performance in order to determine whether emotional items are remembered more vividly or if there is a bias toward emotional stimuli. They hypothesized that positive and negative images would enhance recognition memory (Schmidt, Patnaik, & Kensinger, 2011). In the experiment, 24 college students analyzed a collection of 540 images that held a random combination of negative, positive, and neutral emotional significance. Additionally, the emotional images were divided as being either low or high arousal. After the study phase, the participants were immediately subjected to a surprise recognition test for the previous images. The students were shown 270 new images with 270 images that they had previously seen. The results of the experiment indicate that positive-high arousal images were more accurately recognized than negative-high arousal images. However, negative-low arousal images were better remembered than positive-low arousal images. Overall, the emotionally arousing images were more often rec... ... middle of paper ... ...ificant relationship between recognition memory and emotion. References Atienza, M., Cantero, J. L. (2008). Modulatory effects of emotion and sleep on recollection and familiarity. Journal of Sleep Research, 17(3), 285-294. Gutpa, R., Srinivasan, N. (2009). Emotions help memory for faces: Role of whole and parts. Cognition and Emotion, 23(4), 807-816. Schmidt, K., Patnaik, P., Kensinger, E. A. (2011). Emotion’s influence on memory for spatial and temporal context. Cognition and Emotion, 25(2), 229-243. Windmann, S., Chmielewski, A. (2008). Emotion-induced modulation of recognition memory decisions in a Go/NoGo task: Response bias or memory bias? Cognition and Emotion, 22(5), 761-776. Xing, C., Isaacowitz, D. M. (2006). Aiming at happiness: How motivation affects attention to and memory for emotional images. Motivation and Emotion, 30(3), 249-256.
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