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Conscious Cogn. 1995 Dec;4(4):410-21.

A novel demonstration of enhanced memory associated with emotional arousal.

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Department of Psychobiology, University of California, Irvine 92717-3800, USA.


The relationship between emotional arousal and long-term memory is addressed in two experiments in which subjects viewed either a relatively emotionally neutral short story (presented as a brief slide show) or a closely matched but more emotionally arousing story and were tested for retention of the story 2 weeks later. Experiment 1 provides an essential replication of the results of Heuer and Reisberg (1990) and illustrates the common interpretive problem posed by the use of different stimuli (slides) in the neutral versus emotional stories. In Experiment 2, identical slides (and sequence) were used in both the neutral and arousal stories. Two different stories were created by varying the narration that accompanied each slide. In both experiments, subjects who viewed the arousal story both experienced a greater emotional reaction to the story than did the subjects who viewed the neutral story, and subsequently exhibited enhanced memory for the story. Subjects in Experiment 2 who viewed the arousal story also recalled more slides than did the subjects who viewed the neutral story. This effect was greatest for story phase 2, the phase in which the emotional slide narration occurred. Because this enhanced retention of the story slides cannot be explained by any differences in the slides themselves, the results provide new evidence to support the contention that emotional arousal influences long-term memory in normal human subjects.

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