Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Source Monitoring Is Not Always Enhanced for Valenced Material

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Source Monitoring Is Not Always Enhanced for Valenced Material

Article excerpt

Source monitoring for valenced materials has received very little attention from researchers interested in the residual effects that emotion can have on memory. The three previous studies that examined memory for valenced material found a source-monitoring enhancement effect. By contrast, we used two different combinations of sources and found a novel, consistent source-monitoring deficit for valenced words as compared with neutral ones. In addition, this memory deficit for contextual details did not consistently covary with item memory. We assert that it is possible to obtain an effect in which heightened attention toward valenced material reduces the binding of contextual details into memory.

Conventional wisdom assumes, and many laboratory studies have confirmed, that affectively valenced materials are usually better remembered than otherwise comparable neutral materials. This enhancement in memory is not stimulus bound, insofar as studies report similar effects for words, pictures, sentences, and narrated videos (reviews can be found in Buchanan & Adolphs, 2002; Hamann, 2001). There are many possible reasons for the memorial enhancement, including the engagement of biological systems such as the amygdala (e.g., LeDoux, 1996; Metcalfe & Jacobs, 1998), general and/or idiosyncratic associations with valenced materials (e.g., Kensinger & Corkin, 2003), or simple distinctiveness of the items in comparison with their neutral counterparts (e.g., Dewhurst & Parry, 2000). Still other theories argue for other mechanisms, such as differential rehearsal and/or valenced material capturing more attention (Cahill & McGaugh, 1995). None of these explanations are necessarily mutually exclusive. If one believes that estimates from the remember-know procedure can index recollection and familiarity, valenced items are often imbued with more recollective details, and this is true of both pictures (Ochsner, 2000) and words (Dewhurst & Parry, 2000; Kensinger & Corkin, 2003). Moreover, Kensinger and Corkin, as well as Ochsner, found that negative words elicited both increased recollection and familiarity.

The purpose of the present article was to investigate source memory for valenced words. Many researchers associate source-monitoring processes with recollective processes, as in remembering versus knowing (e.g., Guttentag & Carroll, 1997; Perfect, Mayes, Downes, & Van Eijk, 1996; Yonelinas, 1999). Although we (and others) believe that source monitoring can be performed even in the presence of only partial, incomplete information (e.g., Dodson, Holland, & Shimamura, 1998; Hicks, Marsh, & Ritschel, 2002), the source-memory-as-recollection stance predicts that source monitoring will be better for valenced words than for neutral words, because valenced materials are associated with greater recollection. In fact, this is exactly what Doerksen and Shimamura (2001) found, using blue and yellow colored words. Kensinger and Corkin (2003) have recently replicated the better color memory, using both negative and taboo (curse) words rather than neutral words. Our study was motivated, in part, by the fact that D'Argembeau and Van der Linden (2004) had some difficulty replicating the basic color memory advantage ostensibly conferred on valenced items, as originally reported by Doerksen and Shimamura. Two of D'Argembeau and Van der Linden's four experiments did not replicate the enhancement effect, and only when they used four colors rather than two, under incidental learning procedures, was the source-monitoring enhancement found. However, Doerksen and Shimamura as well as Kensinger and Corkin used intentional learning procedures. ' Ia unpublished experiments from our own laboratory, we have not been able to replicate the source-memory advantage using Doerksen and Shimamura's stimuli with incidental encoding. Although D'Argembeau and Van der Linden extended the source-monitoring advantage to spatial location of words on a computer monitor, we feel that it would be fair to say that the evidence is far from strong that valenced words more generally increase source memory for a variety of contextual attributes. …

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