Mood-dependent retrieval in visual long-term memory: dissociable effects on retrieval probability and mnemonic precision

Cognition and Emotion 32 (4):674-690 (2017)
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Abstract

Although memories are more retrievable if observers’ emotional states are consistent between encoding and retrieval, it is unclear whether the consistency of emotional states increases the likelihood of successful memory retrieval, the precision of retrieved memories, or both. The present study tested visual long-term memory for everyday objects while consistent or inconsistent emotional contexts between encoding and retrieval were induced using background grey-scale images from the International Affective Picture System. In the study phase, participants remembered colours of sequentially presented objects in a negative or positive context. In the test phase, participants estimated the colours of previously studied objects in either negative versus neutral or positive versus neutral contexts. Note, IAPS images in the test phase were always visually different from those initially paired with the studied objects. We found that reinstating negative context and positive context at retrieval resulted in better mnemonic precision and a higher probability of successful retrieval, respectively. Critically, these effects could not be attributed to a negative or positive context at retrieval alone. Together, these findings demonstrated dissociable effects of emotion on the quantitative and qualitative aspects of visual long-term memory retrieval.

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Weiwei Zhang
University of California at Riverside

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