Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The ability to successfully bind features and objects at different levels of abstraction is important for everyday functioning of memory. The current study examined how actions and emotional arousal influence item recognition and between-item binding across two experiments. According to the Arousal-Biased Competition Theory (ABC; Mather and Sutherland, 2011), binding can be enhanced by emotional arousal, depending upon what is the focus of attention within a scene. In the current study, participants viewed a series of slides, each of which depicted a person performing an action with an object, as well as an object that is not interacted with. All of the actions performed were emotionally neutral. According to ABC, this difference between attended and non-attended items should be enhanced when in the presence of an emotionally arousing stimulus. In the current experiments, emotional arousal was manipulated using sounds presented before slides depicting a person performing an action using an object. In Experiment 1, actions led to enhanced attention to (and better item memory for) manipulated objects relative to objects that were not the focus of attention. Participants also gave higher confidence ratings for recognized interacted objects than recognized non-interacted objects. However, the predicted interaction between emotional arousal and item type was not obtained. The one impact of emotional arousal was that participants responded more conservatively to faces and items associated with a negative sound. In Experiment 2, there was no evidence for enhanced associative memory as a function of either emotion or action, although overall performance was very poor. The implications of these findings for theoretical views of memory are discussed, as well as future directions for research.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Lane, Sean



Included in

Psychology Commons