Effects of emotional valence and arousal on recollective and nonrecollective recall

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2013 May;39(3):663-77. doi: 10.1037/a0028578. Epub 2012 May 21.


The authors investigated the effects of valence and arousal on memory using a dual-process model that quantifies recollective and nonrecollective components of recall without relying on metacognitive judgments to separate them. The results showed that valenced words increased reconstruction (a component of nonrecollective retrieval) relative to neutral words. In addition, the authors found that positive valence increased recollective retrieval in comparison to negative valence, whereas negative valence increased nonrecollective retrieval relative to positive valence. The latter effect, however, depended on arousal: It was reliable only when arousal was high. The present findings supported the notion that emotional valence is a conceptual gist because it affected nonrecollective retrieval and because subjects' recall protocols were clustered by valence. The results challenge the hypothesis that valence affects only recollection, and they clarify previous inconsistent findings about the effects of emotion on memory accuracy and brain activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Markov Chains
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Vocabulary
  • Young Adult