Effects of Emotional Valence and Arousal Upon Memory Trade-Offs With Aging

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Attention can be attracted faster by emotional relative to neutral information, and memory also can be strengthened for that emotional information. However, within visual scenes, often there is an advantage in memory for central emotional portions at the expense of memory for peripheral background information, called an emotion-induced memory trade-off. The authors examined how aging impacts the trade-off by manipulating valence (positive, negative) and arousal (low, high) of a central emotional item within a neutral background scene and testing memory for item and background components separately. They also assessed memory after 2 study-test delay intervals, to investigate age differences in the trade-off over time. Results revealed similar patterns of performance between groups after a short study-test delay, with both age groups showing robust memory trade-offs. After a longer delay, young and older adults showed enhanced memory for emotional items but at a cost to memory for background information only for young adults in negative arousing scenes. These results emphasize that attention and consolidation stage processes interact to shape how emotional memory is constructed in young and older adults.

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