Emotion and Memory

In this video I provide more examples of the relationship between emotion and memory. Flashbulb memories are detailed memories of emotionally-charged events. These memories may be more detailed but they are still subject to the errors and biases that affect other memories and so they may be inaccurate. Next I distinguish between state-dependent memory, which refers to a matching of physical or emotional state during encoding and retrieval, and mood-congruent memory, which refers to emotional state during retrieval influencing the content of memory that is retrieved.

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Video Transcript:
Hi, I’m Michael Corayer and this is Psych Exam Review. In the previous video on memory failures I talked about this idea of persistence and this was when someone has a negative emotional memory that keeps coming to mind repeatedly and without their control. So it ends up disrupting their life and so this brings us to the relationship between emotion and memory.

In this video I’d like to look at this relationship in more detail and see a few more examples of how emotion and memory are linked. The first example that we’ll look at is what’s called a flashbulb memory. A flashbulb memory refers to a more detailed memory of a emotionally-charged event. When we’re in situations that evoke lots of emotion we tend to form more detailed memories of these events.

Ok so an example of this from my own life, and many other people would relate to this, would be September 11th. So I can remember, I was a senior in high school at the time, and I can remember the classroom that I was in when we first heard that something was happening and we went down to one of the school cafeterias. We watched on these little tvs and I can remember other people who were there, that were in that particular class with me at the time, and so I have a more detailed memory of that morning than I do for some other random morning.

If you were to ask me ask me what I was doing November 17th 2000, you know, I don’t know. Was it a weekday, was it a weekend? I don’t really have any detailed memories of that morning. Now that’s not to say that my memories of September 11 are necessarily accurate.

There’s still the possibility for bias and error and these other memory failures that we’ve already seen and the fact that we bring this memory to mind more often means that there’s a pretty good likelihood of suggestibility and reconstruction. That we’re going to change this memory without realizing it each time we recall it and when we think about it we’re going to integrate it with other memories and things might get a little bit distorted.

One study that looked at this asked people about September 11 and asked them if they remembered seeing the video of the first plane hitting the first tower and many people reported that they vividly remembered seeing this on September 11th but in fact they couldn’t have because that video wasn’t available until the following day. So this shows that what happened was they mixed these memories together. So we have to remember that our flashbulb memories are more detailed but they’re not necessarily accurate.

Ok another example of the relationship between emotion and memory is what’s called state-dependent memory and so the idea of state-dependent memory is that our state when we encode and retrieve memory is matched. So our ability to retrieve a particular event might be dependent on our state at the time.

What I mean by that is, let’s say that you’ve been drinking and so you were a little bit drunk and you meet someone at a party. Now if you meet that person again when you’re also drunk you might find it easier to recall their name and that’s because your state at encoding matches your state at retrieval and that’s what state-dependent memory refers to. The idea is that state at encoding, when you formed that memory, the sort of physical state that you were in matches with state at retrieval and this makes it easier for you to bring this memory to mind.

A related theory, and this is where there’s some confusion amongst a lot of students, is the idea of mood-congruent memory. So what’s the difference here between state-dependent memory and mood congruent memory? Ok so in our state dependent memory, let’s say that if you are happy right, your emotional state when you’re encoding this memory, you’re encoding a memory and you’re happy at the time, when you’re happy later it’s easier to recall that memory because you’re in the same state as when you encoded it.

But in mood congruent memory the idea is that your state at retrieval matches the content of the memory. Ok, so what do I mean by that? Well the idea here is that your emotional state at the time is going to influence the content of the memories that you recall.

For instance if you’re feeling really upset and I asked you about your childhood and your parents, you’re more likely to tell me negative aspects, you know, negative memories of that, of your childhood experience or of your relationship with your parents or something. But if you’re feeling really happy your emotional state at the time is more positive and I ask you the same question about your childhood and your relationship with your parents then you’re more likely to recall positive content. Ok so it’s not necessarily the same as saying that it matched your encoding state.

You weren’t necessarily happy or upset at the time when you formed those memories, when you were a child but that the content, the emotional content of those memories, is matched with your current state at retrieval. So that’s what’s called mood congruent memory. So it’s slightly different from state-dependent memory and hopefully I’ve made that clear.

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Thanks for watching!