Memory for emotional simulations: remembering a rosy future

Psychol Sci. 2012 Jan 1;23(1):24-9. doi: 10.1177/0956797611422237. Epub 2011 Dec 2.


Mental simulations of future experiences are often concerned with emotionally arousing events. Although it is widely believed that mental simulations enhance future behavior, virtually nothing is known about how memory for these simulations changes over time or whether simulations of emotional experiences are especially well remembered. We used a novel paradigm that combined recently developed methods for generating simulations of future events and well-established procedures for testing memory to examine the retention of positive, negative, and neutral simulations over delays of 10 min and 1 day. We found that at the longer delay, details associated with negative simulations were more difficult to remember than details associated with positive or neutral simulations. We suggest that these effects reflect the influence of the fading-affect bias, whereby negative reactions fade more quickly than positive reactions, and that this influence results in a tendency to remember a rosy simulated future. We discuss implications of our findings for individuals with affective disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Cues
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Memory*
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Memory, Long-Term
  • Mental Recall*
  • Thinking
  • Time Factors