Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



Although the conclusions of research examining the impact of emotional arousal on associative memory are mixed (e.g., Mather & Nesmith, 2008; Zimmerman & Kelley, 2010), it has recently been suggested that associative memory should be enhanced by arousal when encoding is intentional rather than incidental (Mather & Sutherland, 2011). Research has also suggested that arousing items are more subject to interference effects in memory than non-arousing items. These predictions were explored across two experiments. In both experiments, participants intentionally encoded a series of picture pairs that consisted of two neutral pictures, two negatively arousing pictures, or one neutral picture and one negatively arousing picture. A recognition test assessed participants’ associative memory for picture pairs as well as item memory for individual pictures. In Experiment 1 it was found that, even with intentional encoding, emotional arousal did not enhance associative recognition. In addition, arousal did not interact with the effects of interference. However, the results did show that repetition enhanced memory for neutral pictures more than arousing pictures. Research concerning the impact of arousal on memory typically finds that the enhancing effect of emotional arousal on memory is usually more apparent after a delay because of improved consolidation (e.g., McGaugh, 2004). Experiment 2 investigated the effect of emotional arousal on associative memory performance after a 48-hour delay. Emotional arousal led to poorer associative recognition. As in Experiment 1, repetition appeared to disproportionally enhance memory for neutral items. Overall, these studies found no evidence that associative recognition is enhanced by emotional arousal.



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Committee Chair

Lane, Sean



Included in

Psychology Commons