Cognitive neuroscience research has greatly advanced our understanding of the cognitive and neural processes that underlie the successful encoding and retrieval of information. The bulk of this research, however, has been conducted with stimuli intentionally chosen to elicit no emotional responses. But in our daily lives, many experiences are infused with emotional importance and personal significance: We receive a compliment from a coworker, or we witness a car crash. These memories are often powerfully vivid; we can feel transported in time as we re-experience these affect- laden moments.11,19,21,22,41,54,60,113,122 To date, most research examining why memories of emotional events have a different profile than memories of neutral events has focused on influences that are exerted as information is initially learned, 54,69,87,88,119 and our prior cycl of grant funding focused on encoding processes as well. This research has revealed an interesting effect of affective valence: negative events are encoded with more sensory processing and positive information is encoded with more conceptual processing, even when the events are equally high in arousal.69,72,73,74,103,104,105 Although less is known about how affect influences retrieval, many influential models of memory conceive of retrieval as a process during which the processes of encoding are reactivated23,108,174. If true, then affective influences during encoding should have downstream effects on the types of retrieval processes engaged or on the types of retrieval cues that would be most effective. The proposed research addresses this possibility, examining how the affective content of information influences the cognitive and neural processes engaged during memory retrieval, giving particular consideration to the possibility that the processes engaged during retrieval will be influenced by those engaged during encoding.
By addressing core questions with regard to emotion's effects on memory retrieval, the proposed research will provide insight into how memory operates within the emotional context of everyday life. This knowledge is important for a basic research understanding of memory and is relevant to the memory disorders and biases observed in affective disorders such as depression, anxiety, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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