The impact of emotional arousal on memory  

Pupić-Bakrač A., Kovač R.
First author's affiliation: University of Zadar, Zadar, Croatia

According to the attention narrowing hypothesis, emotional excitement directs the focus of attention on stimuli which cause emotions and make the focus of attention on other information considerably reduced. As high anxious subjects tend to focus attention on negatively affected stimuli more often than the low, the aim of this study was to determine the difference between low and high anxious subjects in the number of correctly recognized neutral black-and-white drawings and time needed for their recognition, as well as accuracy in retrieving emotionally affected pictures. Fourteen subjects, seven high and seven low anxious, participated in the study. Pictures from the IAPS (International Affective Picture System) basis were taken as an emotionally affected stimulus. Black-and-white drawings of everyday objects were used as neutral material. Neutral black-and-white drawings and emotionally affected stimulus (positive, neutral or negative pictures) were presented simultaneously for 3, 6 or 9 seconds. After five minute period, during which subjects were solving signal detection task, they were asked to recognize neutral black-and-white drawings, as well as retrieve emotionally affected pictures. The accuracy of recognition was recorded for drawings and pictures, and recognition time for drawings. The results showed no difference between high and low anxious subjects in the number of recognized neutral black-and-white drawings presented with all categories of emotionally affected pictures, as well as in recognizing time. There was the lowest number of recognized drawings when they were presented with negatively affected pictures, and that was followed with the longest recognizing time at all intervals of the exposition. The greatest number of recognized black-and-white drawings was when they were presented with positively affected pictures. Low anxious subjects were more successful in retrieving negatively affected pictures than high anxious, while there was no difference between these two groups in retrieving positively and neutrally affected pictures.