Negative emotion amplifies retrieval practice effect for both task-relevant and task-irrelevant information

Cognition and Emotion 37 (7) (2023)
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Abstract

Selective retrieval of task-relevant information often facilitates memory retention of that information. However, it is still unclear if selective retrieval of task-relevant information can alter memory for task-irrelevant information, and the role of emotional arousal in it. In two experiments, we used emotional and neutral faces as stimuli, and participants were asked to memorise the name (who is this person?) and location (where does he/she come from?) associated with each face in initial study. Then, half of the studied faces were presented as cues, and participants were asked to retrieve the corresponding names (Experiment 1) or locations (Experiment 2). Finally, all the faces were presented and participants were asked to retrieve both the corresponding names and locations. The results of the final test showed that retrieval practice not only enhanced memory of task-relevant information but also enhanced memory of task-irrelevant information. More importantly, negative emotion amplified the retrieval practice effect overall, with a larger retrieval-induced benefit for the negative than neutral condition. These findings demonstrated an emotional arousal amplification effect on retrieval-induced enhancement effects, suggesting that the advantage of the retrieved memory representations can be amplified by emotional arousal even without explicit goals in a task setting.

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