Emotional memory is perceptual.

A.R. Arntz*, C. de Groot, M. Kindt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In two experiments it was investigated which aspects of memory are influenced by emotion. Using a framework proposed by Roediger (American Psychologist 45 (1990) 1043-1056), two dimensions relevant for memory were distinguished the implicit-explicit distinction, and the perceptual versus conceptual distinction. In week 1, subjects viewed a series of slides accompanied with a spoken story in either of the two versions, a neutral version, or a version with an emotional mid-phase. In week 2, memory performance for the slides and story was assessed unexpectedly. A free recall test revealed superior memory in the emotional condition for the story's mid-phase stimuli as compared to the neutral condition, replicating earlier findings. Furthermore, memory performance was assessed using tests that systematically assessed all combinations of implicit versus explicit and perceptual versus conceptual memory. Subjects who had listened to the emotional story had superior perceptual memory, on both implicit and explicit level, compared to those who had listened to the neutral story. Conceptual memory was not superior in the emotional condition. The results suggest that emotion specifically promotes perceptual memory, probably by better encoding of perceptual aspects of emotional experiences. This might be related to the prominent position of perceptual memories in traumatic memory, manifest in intrusions, nightmares and reliving experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-34
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


Dive into the research topics of 'Emotional memory is perceptual.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this