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Is remembering emotional information an involuntary/unconscious process or is it related to voluntary conscious retrieval?
RAMPONI, C. Handelsman, G. & BARNARD, P.J.
Meeting of the Experimental Psychology Society, 2nd - 4th of April 2008
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Memory for emotional material (events, pictures and words) has been shown to be superior than memory for neutral material in explicit memory tests of recall and recognition. If the memory advantage for emotional stimuli is an automatic, involuntary/unconscious process, this effect should be present in tests of implicit memory. We compared results from two tests of memory identical in all respects apart from retrieval instructions. After studying emotional and neutral paired associates, participants were shown the first member of the pair; intentional retrieval participants were instructed to explicitly recall the associated word, whilst incidental retrieval participants were instructed to generate the first word that came to mind associated to the word. Depth of study processing had an effect on the intentional test, but not the incidental test, showing a dissociation that confirmed the incidental test was not contaminated by an intentional retrieval strategy. In the intentional test emotional pairs were better recalled than neutral pairs, but this was not found in the incidental test. The absence of an emotion effect on implicit memory, strongly suggests that emotional material devoid of its contextual episode has not a preferential mnemonic status; voluntary/conscious remembering is required for observing a memory advantage for emotional material.