Affect Influences Feature Binding in Memory: Trading Between Richness and Strength of Memory Representations

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Abstract

Research has shown that long-term memory representations of objects are formed as a natural product of perception even without any intentional memorization. It is not known, however, how rich these representations are in terms of the number of bound object features. In particular, because feature binding rests on resource-limited processes, there may be a context-dependent trade-off between the quantity of stored features and their memory strength. The authors examined whether affective state may bring about such a trade-off. Participants incidentally encoded pictures of real-world objects while experiencing positive or negative affect, and the authors later measured memory for 2 features. Results showed that participants traded between richness and strength of memory representations as a function of affect, with positive affect tuning memory formation toward richness and negative affect tuning memory formation toward strength. These findings demonstrate that memory binding is a flexible process that is modulated by affective state.

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