The effect of emotional facial expressions on item and associative memory in younger and older adults
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Research suggests that emotional stimuli can modulate item and associative memory performance. While enhancing the memory for individual item components, when integrating the components together in memory, emotional stimuli are known to either- facilitate binding between stimuli (Arousal Enhances Binding Hypothesis; Mather, 2007; Broaden-and-build theory, Frederickson, 1998), or impair binding due to attentional narrowing (Christianson, 1992) or perceptual-affective trade-offs (Mandler, 1975). Previous research, using emotionally arousing words (Naveh-Benjamin et al., 2012) or pictures (Nashiro & Mather, 2011), indicates consistent item memory improvement, with either no effect of these stimuli on associative memory performance or a pattern of results trending towards the trade-off hypothesis. The present study attempted to further investigate the effect of valence (happy, sad) and arousal by using powerful emotion inducing stimuli - faces with emotional expressions, on item and associative memory for face-name pairs among younger and older adults. In Experiment 1, item and associative recognition memory were tested for faces, names and face-name pairs. In Experiment 2, the effect of emotion was strengthened by repeating the face-name pairs at study. The results indicated that positive valence improved performance on both tests relative to negative valence. However, relative to neutral stimuli, overall emotional arousal hurt associative memory performance in both age groups, while not showing a benefit for the emotional faces themselves.