Poster A63, Saturday, March 24, 1:30–3:30 pm, Exhibit Hall C
Differential effects of negative emotion on item-specific and contextual memory precision
Rose Cooper1, Maureen Ritchey1; 1Boston College
Negative emotional arousal has distinct effects on encoding and reconstruction of episodic memories. Past work has suggested that negative emotion differentially affects memory for item-specific and contextual information, which are mediated by dissociable cortico-hippocampal systems. It remains unclear, however, whether negative emotion predominantly affects retrieval of episodic details (memory success) or the fidelity of episodic information (memory precision), and whether changes in success or precision are limited to item-specific or contextual information. Following Xie and Zhang (2017, Cognition), we predicted that negative affect would enhance memory precision for item-specific details. This may come at a cost to memory for contextual information, which then becomes more gist-like following negative arousal. Alternatively, contextual details might become more precise if arousal generally enhances encoding fidelity. To test these alternative hypotheses, we developed a novel paradigm wherein participants encoded objects embedded within 360 degree panorama scenes, each preceded by either a negative or neutral image to induce affective state. Item-specific memory was tested by asking participants to reconstruct each object's color, varying within a 360 degree spectrum, and contextual memory precision was assessed by asking participants to find each object’s original location within the panorama. We observed differential effects of negative emotion on memory: whereas negative affect enhanced item-memory precision, as predicted, we found that it decreased the likelihood of remembering item-specific details. In contrast, negative emotion did not influence memory success or precision of contextual information. Therefore, negative emotional arousal has both content-specific and process-specific effects on our ability to recollect episodic information.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic