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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding the retrograde effects of emotion on memory for related events Cocquyt, Chantelle Marie


Emotional events are often remembered better than neutral ones, however emotion can also spill over and affect our memory for neutral experiences that happened before an emotional event. Recently proposed theories suggest that emotion can retroactively enhance memory for preceding neutral events if they are deemed high priority, whilst impairing memory for those deemed low priority. However, the effects of the conceptual relationship between preceding neutral and emotional events on memory for the preceding information have yet to be investigated. Conceptual relatedness refers to the extent to which stimuli are connected either semantically or schematically. In this study, I investigated the effects of conceptual relatedness on the retroactive effects of emotion on memory. To do so, I used a unique paradigm where participants sequentially encoded pairs of images that were either related or unrelated. The first image was always neutral, whereas the second image was either negative or neutral. Participants then returned 24 hours later to complete a recognition memory assessment. Consistent with prior research on emotional memory, emotional images were remembered better than neutral images. Additionally, in support of our hypothesis, emotion enhanced memory for preceding images that were related, however it impaired memory for preceding images that were unrelated. These findings indicate that the effects of emotion on memory for preceding events are dependent on the conceptual relationship between them.

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