Poster D13, Monday, March 26, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Spatial distancing reduces emotional arousal to reactivated memories
Natasha Parikh1, Brynn McGovern1, Kevin S. LaBar1; 1Duke University
Memory modification research and theory suggest that a previously consolidated memory, when reactivated in a specific way, may be open to alteration if manipulated during a labile period. This application holds great clinical importance, as it could allow for an enduring change in the emotional impact of aversive memories. In this experiment, we investigated whether memory reactivation provides a window of opportunity to decrease emotional responses to negative memories. We introduce the novel application of cognitively-based emotion regulation -- specifically spatial distancing -- as the manipulation in a memory modification paradigm. Healthy young adult participants (N = 119) were exposed to negatively valenced, high arousal pictures from the International Affective Picture System across three testing sessions. After a partial reactivation of each picture, participants in the experimental group imagined that the viewed components were extremely far away from them. Control groups were given regulation-alone, reactivation-alone, or no intervening manipulations. Self-reported ratings of valence and arousal in response to the pictures were taken in sessions occurring two days before and two days after the manipulation. Comparison of pre-manipulation and post-manipulation ratings revealed a marked drop in arousal for the experimental group that was significantly greater than that observed in the control groups. On the other hand, task-induced changes in valence ratings to the pictures did not differ across groups. These results specify the affective dimension impacted by distancing and open up a new line of work that capitalizes on reactivation-based lability to reduce emotional arousal to existing memories.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions