Reduced memory for the spatial and temporal context of unpleasant words

Richard J Maddock, Scott Frein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Emotional stimuli are consistently better remembered than neutral stimuli. However, the reported effects of emotional stimuli on source memory are less consistent. In four experiments, we examined spatial and temporal source memory and free recall for emotional words previously studied in an fMRI experiment. In the fMRI experiment, the unpleasant but not the pleasant words were shown to activate the amygdala. In the experiments reported here, spatial and temporal source memory were reduced for the unpleasant words compared to pleasant and neutral words. Reduced spatial memory for unpleasant words was observed across studies that varied the specific stimuli, task conditions, and incidental versus intentional encoding instructions. Free recall was enhanced for the pleasant and unpleasant words compared to neutral words. The results demonstrate reduced source memory for unpleasant words even when item recall is enhanced. Our findings are consistent with prior reports of amygdala-mediated amnestic effects evoked by unpleasant stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-117
Number of pages22
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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