Remembering the Snake in the Grass: Threat Enhances Recognition But Not Source Memory

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Research on the influence of emotion on source memory has yielded inconsistent findings. The object-based framework (Mather, 2007) predicts that negatively arousing stimuli attract attention, resulting in enhanced within-object binding, and, thereby, enhanced source memory for intrinsic context features of emotional stimuli. To test this prediction, we presented pictures of threatening and harmless animals, the color of which had been experimentally manipulated. In a memory test, old-new recognition for the animals and source memory for their color was assessed. In all 3 experiments, old-new recognition was better for the more threatening material, which supports previous reports of an emotional memory enhancement. This recognition advantage was due to the emotional properties of the stimulus material, and not specific for snake stimuli. However, inconsistent with the prediction of the object-based framework, intrinsic source memory was not affected by emotion.

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