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Emotion. 2006 May;6(2):215-23.

The influence of nonremembered affective associations on preference.

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Martinos Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


An important influence on our preference toward a specific object is its associations with affective information. Here, the authors concentrate on the role of memory on shaping such preferences. Specifically, the authors used a multistage behavioral paradigm that fostered associations between neutral shapes and affective images. Participants that explicitly remembered these affective associations preferred neutral shapes associated with positive images. Counterintuitively, participants who could not explicitly remember the associations preferred neutral shapes that were associated with negative images. Generally, the difference in preference between participants who could and could not remember the affective associations demonstrates a critical link between memory and preference formation. The authors propose that the preference for negatively associated items is a manifestation of a mechanism that produces an inherent incentive for rapidly assessing potentially threatening aspects in the environment.

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