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Affect enhances object-background associations: evidence from behaviour and mathematical modelling

Madan, Christopher R; Knight, Aubrey; Kensinger, Elizabeth; Mickley Steinmetz, Katherine


Aubrey Knight

Elizabeth Kensinger

Katherine Mickley Steinmetz


In recognition memory paradigms, emotional details are often recognised better than neutral ones, but at the cost of memory for peripheral details. We previously provided evidence that, when peripheral details must be recalled using central details as cues, peripheral details from emotional scenes are at least as likely to be recalled as those from neutral scenes. Here we replicated and explicated this result by implementing a mathematical modelling approach to disambiguate the influence of target type, scene emotionality, scene valence, and their interactions. After incidentally encoding scenes that included neutral backgrounds with a positive, negative, or neutral foreground objects, participants showed equal or better cued recall of components from emotional scenes compared to neutral scenes. There was no evidence of emotion-based impairment in cued recall in either of two experiments, including one in which we replicated the emotion-induced memory trade-off in recognition. Mathematical model fits indicated that the emotionality of the encoded scene was the primary driver of improved cued-recall performance. Thus, even when emotion impairs recognition of peripheral components of scenes, it can preserve the ability to recall which scene components were studied together.


Madan, C. R., Knight, A., Kensinger, E., & Mickley Steinmetz, K. (2020). Affect enhances object-background associations: evidence from behaviour and mathematical modelling. Cognition and Emotion, 34(5), 960-969.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 19, 2019
Online Publication Date Feb 16, 2020
Publication Date 2020
Deposit Date Jan 31, 2020
Publicly Available Date Feb 17, 2021
Journal Cognition and Emotion
Print ISSN 0269-9931
Electronic ISSN 1464-0600
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 34
Issue 5
Pages 960-969
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Cognition and Emotion on 16/02/2020, available online:


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