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Effects of emotion and semantic relatedness on recognition memory: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence

Han, Meng; Li, Bingcan; Guo, Chunyan; Tibon, Roni


Meng Han

Bingcan Li

Chunyan Guo

Assistant Professor in Psychology


Some aspects of our memory are enhanced by emotion, whereas others can be unaffected or even hindered. Previous studies reported impaired associative memory of emotional content, an effect termed associative “emotional interference”. The current study used EEG and an associative recognition paradigm to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms associated with this effect. In two experiments, participants studied negative and neutral stimulus-pairs that were either semantically related or unrelated. In Experiment 1 emotions were relevant to the encoding task (valence judgment) whereas in Experiment 2 emotions were irrelevant (familiarity judgment). In a subsequent associative recognition test, EEG was recorded while participants discriminated between intact, rearranged, and new pairs. An associative emotional interference effect was observed in both experiments, but was attenuated for semantically related pairs in Experiment 1, where valence was relevant to the task. Moreover, a modulation of an early associative memory ERP component (300–550 ms) occurred for negative pairs when valence was task-relevant (Experiment 1), but for semantically related pairs when valence was irrelevant (Experiment 2). A later ERP component (550–800 ms) showed a more general pattern, and was observed in all experimental conditions. These results suggest that both valence and semantic relations can act as an organizing principle that promotes associative binding. Their ability to contribute to successful retrieval depends on specific task demands.


Han, M., Li, B., Guo, C., & Tibon, R. (2023). Effects of emotion and semantic relatedness on recognition memory: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. Psychophysiology, 60(1), Article e14152.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 22, 2022
Publication Date 2023-01
Deposit Date Jul 22, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jul 26, 2022
Journal Psychophysiology
Print ISSN 0048-5772
Electronic ISSN 1469-8986
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Issue 1
Article Number e14152
Keywords Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology; Biological Psychiatry; Cognitive Neuroscience; Developmental Neuroscience; Endocrine and Autonomic Systems; Neurology; Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Neuropsychol
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