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The Influence of Emotional Valence on Integral Memory Accuracy Using a Novel Emotion Induction Procedure

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Emotional memories are useful for future decision-making. Despite their utility, memories for details about past emotional events, and memories for the emotions experienced during the event, are susceptible to bias over time. Whether emotion enhances or hinders memory depends on a number of factors, including the valence of the emotions experienced. The present dissertation implemented a novel emotion induction technique designed to test memory accuracy in a controlled yet ecologically valid situation: the positive Trier Social Stressor Task (TSST). Instead of giving a speech about their qualifications for a job in front of stern evaluators, participants in the positive condition discussed a highly enjoyable hobby for warm and supportive observers. A neutral TSST condition was also developed. The new TSST conditions, which were compared to the original negative TSST, were validated in Study 1 and replicated in Study 2. Participants in the positive condition increased in positive emotion from baseline to post-speech, participants in the neutral condition remained in a stable affective state, and participants in the negative condition decreased in positive and increased in negative emotion. The intensity of emotions was similar in the emotional conditions. Study 2 tested memory accuracy for the details of, and emotions experienced during, the speech task by giving participants a surprise memory test one week after their initial visit. The influence of memory bias on intentions for future behavior was also measured. Memory accuracy was similar across groups over a number of indices except one in which the negative group performed worse than the positive and negative conditions. The negative group overestimated negative and underestimated positive emotions experienced during the TSST when recalling them one week later. Regardless of condition, the more positive and the less negative participants recalled feeling during the TSST, the more willing they were to participate in a similar future study even after statistically adjusting for emotions experienced during the TSST. This dissertation contributes a new emotion induction technique that can be used in a variety of studies. The lack of group differences in memory for emotional detail and the importance of emotional memory for decision making is discussed.

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