The Role Of Emotions in Memory

Notes on the role of emotions in memory

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  • Created on: 20-10-11 19:28
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The role of emotion in forgetting
In the models of memory cognitive psychologist neglected emotions, because they
compare the brain to a computer which does not have emotions
There are two main concepts in how emotion effects memory, one that cause the
memories to be forgotten and the second which prevent the memories to be
forgotten, these are called repression and flashbulb memories.
Freud (1901) ­ proposed that forgetting is motivated by the desire to avoid
displeasure, so these memories are repressed and pushed down to the unconscious.
In other words it is a defence mechanism by which allows people to protect
themselves from threatening thoughts by blocking them out of the unconscious
The effects of the memories being repressed would make the person feel better,
however this may only be temporary.
Freud noticed that repressed memories would continue to effect the conscious
Case Study
-Hunter (1957) studied a young 20 year old woman called Irene, who witnessed the
traumatic event of her mother's death, soon after Irene had no memories around the event,
for example she would ask "When did she die?" or "Was I not there to take care of her?".
However, Irene started to have fits where she would act out events from her life, including
her mother's death itself.
- This case study showed that the memories had not disappeared but Irene could
not access them when asked to or asked about the death.

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William (1994) - Showed that a high proportion of women had been sexually abused as a
child did not recall it when interviewed 20 years later
This supports the role of repression in forgetting and suggests that our
emotion can make our memory worse.
Myers and Brewin (1994) asked 27 female undergraduates to recall unhappy memories but
not happy ones.
They found that it took them twice as long to recall unhappy
memories.…read more

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A third criticism into research of repression is that the participant have to talk about
past events, and memories that have been repressed are normally negative, so even
if participants manage to recall the event, they may not want to talk about it.
Flashbulb Memories
Flashbulb memories are where we have a detailed memory of where we were and
what we were doing at the time of a major event.…read more

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Wright (1993) - he interviewed people about the Hillsborough football disaster. To test the
accuracy of their flashbulb memories he asked them to recall events, after 5 months most
people did not have strong memories.
This criticises flashbulb memories as it shows that are not immune to
errors, and that can be constructed by the media.…read more


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