Differential recall of central and peripheral details of emotional slides is not a stable phenomenon

J.P. Wessel, P.J. van der Kooy, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach

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A number of studies have reported that central information of an emotional scene is well retained, whereas peripheral details of such a scene are poorly recalled. Experiment 1 tested the hypothesis that attentional narrowing is responsible for this phenomenon. In addition, an attempt was made to increase the ecological validity of the experiment by giving extensive self-relevant instructions. Results showed that, although an emotional slide elicited eye-movements consistent with attentional narrowing, the corresponding recall patterns were absent. Experiments 2 and 3 explored some of the variables that might be responsible for the latter result. Experiment 2, relying on the original design of Christianson and E.F. Loftus (1991), found enhanced recall of central information of an emotional scene. Experiment 3 systematically varied stimulus exposure and interstimulus interval durations. However, the results of this experiment were rather complex and did not fully support the predicted differential recall patterns. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed. It is suggested that other methods (e.g. increasing levels of emotion rather than involvement) may be more suitable for testing the attentional narrowing hypothesis of emotional memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-2
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2000


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