Emotional stimuli, divided attention, and memory

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The emotion-memory literature has shown that negative emotional arousal enhances memory. S. A. Christianson (1992) proposed that preattentive processing could account for this emotion-memory relationship. Two experiments were conducted to test Christianson's theory. In Experiment 1, participants were exposed to neutral and negative arousing slides. In Experiment 2, participants were exposed to neutral, negative arousing, and positive arousing slides. In both experiments, the aforementioned variable was factorially combined with a divided-attention or non-divided-attention condition. The authors predicted that, in contrast to the nondivided condition, dividing attention would adversely impact neutral and positive stimuli more than negative stimuli. The hypothesis was supported; participants recalled more high negative-arousal slides than positive or neutral slides when their attention was divided rather than nondivided. Copyright 2005 by the American Psychological Association.

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