Emotionally arousing stimuli survive taxation of processing resources
Clark-Foos, Arlen Graham
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In two experiments, I investigated the connection between emotional valence and memory. A clear memory advantage has been demonstrated for emotional words and pictures in recent literature (Kensinger & Corkin, 2003). In this paper, I investigated the additional role of emotional arousal in the well-established memory enhancement. Both experiments show a clear advantage of arousing words above that of valenced-nonarousing words. It has been proposed that while valenced material is supported by the prefrontal cortex, arousing stimuli is mediated by amygdalar activation (Cahill & McGaugh, 1990; Kensinger & Corkin, 2004). By reducing participants attentional resources with a concurrent task, I was able to demonstrate the automaticity of this proposed arousal benefit. This lends credence to the claim that arousing items confer their advantage in memory via an amygdalar pathway.