Only “efficient” emotional stimuli affect the content of working memory during free-recollection from natural scenes
Emotional events are thought to have privileged access to attention and memory, consuming resources needed to encode competing emotionally neutral stimuli. However, it is not clear whether this detrimental effect is automatic or depends on the successful maintenance of the specific emotional object within working memory. Here, participants viewed everyday scenes including an emotional object among other neutral objects followed by a free-recollection task. Results showed that emotional objects—irrespective of their perceptual saliency—were recollected more often than neutral objects. The probability of being recollected increased as a function of the arousal of the emotional objects, specifically for negative objects. Successful recollection of emotional objects (positive or negative) from a scene reduced the overall number of recollected neutral objects from the same scene. This indicates that only emotional stimuli that are efficient in grabbing (and then consuming) available attentional resources play a crucial role during the encoding of competing information, with a subsequent bias in the recollection of neutral representations.
KeywordsEmotion Salience Working memory Capacity Free recollection
The study has been partially funded by the Russian Academic Excellence Project ‘5-100’.
- Brainerd CJ, Reyna VF, Howe ML, Kevershan J (1990) The last shall be first: how memory strength affects children’s retrieval. Psychol Sci 1:247–252. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.1990.tb00208.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Desimone R, Duncan J (1995) Neural mechanisms of selective visual attention. Ann Rev Neurosci 18:193–222. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.ne.18.030195.001205 CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Lang PJ, Bradley MM, Cuthbert BN (2005) International affective picture system (IAPS): affective ratings of pictures and instruction manual. Technical report A-6. University of Florida, Gainesville, FLGoogle Scholar