Enhanced recognition memory for emotionally negative sounds Open Access

Morrow, Erin (Spring 2022)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/8336h3188?locale=en


Emotion typically enhances memory for emotional events relative to neutral events, a phenomenon often referred to as the emotional memory effect. Studies of this effect have used a variety of visual and verbal stimuli, but almost no studies have used emotional sounds (e.g., dogs snarling) and none have investigated recognition memory for emotional sounds. Thus, here we examined recognition memory for negative and neutral environmental sounds, predicting enhanced memory for negative stimuli. Based on the finding that emotional memory effects for visual stimuli are almost always reflected in the recollection component of recognition memory (remembering accompanied by contextual information) rather than the familiarity component (a sense of knowing without context), we further predicted that enhanced memory for emotional sounds would be reflected in recollection alone. To investigate these hypotheses, we conducted an online experiment in which participants first encoded 96 sounds (48 negative and 48 neutral). After a 15-minute delay, memory retrieval was assessed with a remember-familiar recognition memory task with semantically-matched target and distractor items to reduce the potential use of associated verbal descriptions. As predicted, recognition memory performance was enhanced for negative sounds relative to neutral sounds, and this enhancement was found for recollection, but not familiarity. Recognition performance was also higher for high- vs. low-arousal negative sounds. These results demonstrate that emotional enhancement effects observed for visual and verbal stimuli also extend to the auditory modality, and that, paralleling previous findings, this effect is reflected in recollection processes alone. These findings suggest that key properties of emotional memory are modality independent and help pave the way for future neuroimaging studies of memory for emotional sounds which can determine the extent to which the neural mechanisms of emotional memory are similar across stimulus modalities.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Materials and Methods 9

Participants 9

Stimuli 9

Online Sound Presentation 11

Procedure 11

Statistical Analysis 13

Results 15

Discussion 19

Figure 1. Encoding trial procedure 25

Figure 2. Retrieval trial procedure 25

Figure 3. Valence rating trial procedure for sounds 26

Figure 4. Mean valence ratings from study participants for negative and neutral sounds 27

Figure 5. Mean arousal ratings from study participants for negative and neutral sounds 28

Figure 6. Distribution of sound stimuli ranked by mean arousal ratings 29

Figure 7. Relationship between mean arousal and valence ratings from study participants 30

Figure 8. Mean d’ discriminability scores for negative and neutral sounds 31

Figure 9. Mean corrected recognition for negative and neutral sounds 32

Figure 10. Mean hit rate for negative and neutral sounds 33

Figure 11. Mean hit rate for high-arousal and low-arousal negative sounds 34

Figure 12. Mean false alarm rate for negative and neutral sounds 35

Figure 13. Mean d’ discriminability measures by valence and perceptual repetitiveness 36

Figure 14. Mean memory estimates by recollection/familiarity and valence 37

Figure 15. Mean response times for familiarity (4 or 5) and recollection (6) responses 38

Figure 16. Mean response times for all remember-familiar test responses 39

Appendix A: Remember-familiar recognition memory test instructions 40

References 41

About this Honors Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files