The Influence of Emotion on Recognition Memory for Scenes
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According to dual-process models, recognition memory is supported by two distinct processes: familiarity, a relatively automatic process that involves the retrieval of a previously encountered item, and recollection, a more effortful process that involves the retrieval of information associated with the context in which an item was encoded (Mickes, Wais & Wixted, 2009). There is a wealth of research suggesting that recognition memory performance is affected by the emotional content of stimuli (McClosky et al., 1988; Taylor et al., 1998; Hamann, 2001), with mounting evidence proposing that while positive, negative and neutral stimuli are equally recognised, negative stimuli are better recollected than positive or neutral stimuli (Ochsner, 2000; Doerksen & Shimamura, 2001; Kensinger & Corkin, 2003). The present study explored the effect of emotion on recognition memory for positive, neutral and negative scenes. The experiment involved a study-test procedure where participants were presented with 30 scenes in either red or cyan in the study phase and 60 scenes in greyscale in the test phase. Participants were asked to complete a yes/no discrimination task and a source memory task, which involved identifying the colour in which the scene had originally been presented. The hypothesis was that negative scenes would be better recollected than positive and neutral scenes and that colour retrieval during the source memory task for negative scenes, therefore, would be most accurate. The results revealed that there was a significant main effect of emotional valence on source recollection although, contrary to the hypothesis, negative scenes were associated with poorer recollection. There was no effect of emotional valence on item recognition. The findings therefore provide further support for a dual-process model of recognition memory.