Emotion enhances the subjective feeling of remembering, despite lower accuracy for contextual details

Emotion. 2011 Jun;11(3):553-62. doi: 10.1037/a0024246.


Emotion strengthens the subjective experience of recollection. However, these vivid and confidently remembered emotional memories may not necessarily be more accurate. We investigated whether the subjective sense of recollection for negative stimuli is coupled with enhanced memory accuracy for contextual details using the remember/know paradigm. Our results indicate a double-dissociation between the subjective feeling of remembering, and the objective memory accuracy for details of negative and neutral scenes. "Remember" judgments were boosted for negative relative to neutral scenes. In contrast, memory for contextual details and associative binding was worse for negative compared to neutral scenes given a "remember" response. These findings show that the enhanced subjective recollective experience for negative stimuli does not reliably indicate greater objective recollection, at least of the details tested, and thus may be driven by a different mechanism than the subjective recollective experience for neutral stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Young Adult