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Psychol Bull. 1992 Sep;112(2):284-309.

Emotional stress and eyewitness memory: a critical review.

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Department of Psychology, University of Stockholm, Sweden.


The eyewitness literature often claims that emotional stress leads to an impairment in memory and, hence, that details of unpleasant emotional events are remembered less accurately than details of neutral or everyday events. A common assumption behind this view is that a decrease in available processing capacity occurs at states of high emotional arousal, which, therefore, leads to less efficient memory processing. The research reviewed here shows that this belief is overly simplistic. Current studies demonstrate striking interactions between type of event, type of detail information, time of test, and type of retrieval information. This article also reviews the literature on memory for stressful events with respect to two major theories: the Yerkes-Dodson law and Easter-brook's cue-utilization hypothesis. To account for the findings from real-life studies and laboratory studies, this article discusses the possibility that emotional events receive some preferential processing mediated by factors related to early perceptual processing and late conceptual processing.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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