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Poster B138

Threat of punishment restructures free recall dynamisc

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Vishnu Murty1, Elizabeth Horwath1, Brandon Katerman2; 1Temple University, 2University of California, Los Angeles

Prior research has shown that threat can distort memory. For example, associating neutral memoranda with threat enhances item memory but conversely impairs item-context binding. Yet, little research has characterized how threat changes the way these events are organized in memory. One way to unpack the latent structure of memory organization is to have participants freely recall memoranda, and then assess free recall dynamics. In this study, participants learned 50 words in either a high or low motivation condition, and then freely recalled the words either immediately or at ~24-hour delay. In a threat group, the high motivation condition was associated with the threat of punishment for forgetting (i.e., an aversive sound blast); while in a control group, the high motivation condition was associated with an instruction to “try harder” to learn. In both groups, participants had better memory for items appearing in the high versus low motivation condition; however, in the threat group this enhancement only appeared after a 24-hour delay (three-way interaction: p<0.001). Regarding free recall dynamics, while there were no significant differences in the utilization of temporal context across conditions in either group, the threat group showed more out of category transitions then the control group, and these differences became more prominent after a 24-hour delay (three-way interaction: p=0.02). Together these findings suggest a model in which item memory is strengthened after a period of consolidation, but this may be associated with a disruption in the overarching organization structures of memory.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024