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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2011 Mar 24;6(2):114-133.

Arousal-biased competition in perception and memory.

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  • 1University of Southern California.


Our everyday surroundings besiege us with information. The battle is for a share of our limited attention and memory, with the brain selecting the winners and discarding the losers. Previous research shows that both bottom-up and top-down factors bias competition in favor of high priority stimuli. We propose that arousal during an event increases this bias both in perception and in long-term memory of the event. Arousal-biased competition theory provides specific predictions about when arousal will enhance and when it will impair memory for events, accounting for some puzzling contradictions in the emotional memory literature.

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