Relationship between Emotion and Forgetting


A major determinant of forgetting in memory is the presence of interference in the retrieval context. Previous research has shown that proactive interference has less impact for emotional than neutral study material (Levens & Phelps, 2008). However, it is unclear how emotional content affects the impact of interference in memory. Emotional content could directly affect the buildup of interference, leading to reduced levels of interference. Alternatively, emotional content could affect the controlled processes that resolve interference. The present study employed the response deadline speed–accuracy trade-off procedure to independently test these hypotheses. Participants studied 3-item lists consisting of emotional or neutral images, immediately followed by a recognition probe. Results indicated a slower rate of accrual for interfering material (lures from previous study list) and lower levels of interference for emotional than neutral stimuli, suggesting a direct impact of emotion on the buildup of interference. In contrast to this beneficiary effect, resolution of interference for emotional material was less effective than neutral material. These findings can provide insight into the interactions of emotion and memory processes.

In Emotion