Role of emotion

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Introduction and how emotion can enhance memory

  • Emotion can affect memory in 2 ways; enhance or impair.
  • Example of emotion enhancing memory is flashbulb memories. These are vivid, long lasting memories surrounding a persons discovery of shocking events. People can describe exactly where they were and what thye were doing when hearing a shocking event.
  • Cahill and McGaugh (1998) - flashbulbs memories occur because of the release of hormones during high emotion. Arousal helps organism to respond to the situation and also makes memory more vivid, enhancing recall.
  • Alternate theory put forward by Neisser (1982) - argued flashbulb memory more memorable because of the rehersal and disclosure that happens after the event.
  • Both theories have disadvantages. Issues with ethics because involves a shocking event that can be upsetting to participants - psychological harm. Lack in reliability as cannot be replicated to show the consitancy of results.
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Impairing memory - repression

  • Repression - used to describe memories that have been locked out of an individuals conscious awareness, 
  • Freud (1917) - if individuals go through long periods of time that are stressful, the unconscious stops these memories form getting back into the conscious.
  • Williams (1994) - used hospital records to identify 206 women who had experienced sexual assult as children. 20 years after, 38% had no recolection of the abuse and out of those who did, 16% reported that they had not been able to remember it at one point. High EV as its a natural experiment, meaning low risk of DC and experimenter bias. However, risk of psychological harm.
  • Loftus and Burns (1982) - showed participants 1 of 2 films of bank robberies. the group that saw the more violent one of a boy being shot were less effective in retreiving details compared to the control group. Low EV as was a lab study - risk of DC and social desirability bias. Psychological harm.
  • Loftus and Pickrell (1995) - demonstrated how false memory is possibe by interviewing participants about childhood experience and planting a false memory about being lost in the mall. 20% of participants believed it was true even after they were told it wasnt. Risk of interviewer bias and has ethical issues - psychological harm. Also no proof it was false, some may have gotten lost as a child.
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Impairing memory - mood dependant and conclusion

  • Antikainen et al (2001) - 6 months after treatment for depression, showed less symptoms and an improvement in memory. Suggests relationship between mood and memory.
  • Lyketsos (2001) - depression leads to low motivation and reduced awareness resulting in memories not being encoded.
  • Sheline et al (1999) - biological basis for poor memory. Women with depresison have smaller hippocampus. Cause and effect issue - done know whether depression causes srinkage of hippocampus or the other way round.
  • Eich et al (1994) - participants had to read a list of words and state whether it described a happy memory or sad one. After 2 days asked to imagine happy or sad mood and recall the memories they had spoken about. those who had imagined a sad mood could remember more sad memories. Suggests emotional state at the time of encoding and recall can affect memory. However, lab study so low EV as does not represent a real world situation. Risk of social desirability bias.
  • Conclusion - emotion can improve or impair memory. Various studies to show this. It is thought that it depends of the situation and the individual about whether memory is impaired or improved by emotion.
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