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Reconsolidation from negative emotional pictures: is successful retrieval required?

, : Reconsolidation from negative emotional pictures: is successful retrieval required?. Memory & Cognition 40(7): 1031-1045

Finn and Roediger (Psychological Science 22:781 786, 211) found that when a negative emotional picture was presented immediately after a successful retrieval, later test performance was enhanced as compared to when a neutral picture or a blank screen had been shown. This finding implicates the period immediately following retrieval as playing an important role in determining later retention via reconsolidation. In two new experiments, we investigated whether successful retrieval was required to show the enhancing effect of negative emotion on later recall. In both experiments, the participants studied Swahili English vocabulary pairs, took an intervening cued-recall test, and were given a final cued-recall test on all items. In Experiment 1, we tested a distinctiveness explanation of the effect. The results showed that neither presentation of a negative picture just prior to successful retrieval nor presentation of a positive picture after successful retrieval produced the enhancing effect that was seen when negative pictures were presented after successful retrieval. In Experiment 2, we tested whether the enhancing effect would occur when a negative picture followed an unsuccessful retrieval attempt with feedback, and a larger enhancement effect occurred after errors of commission than after errors of omission. These results indicate that effort in retrieving is critical to the enhancing effect shown with negative pictures; whether the target is produced by the participant or given by an external source following a commission error does not matter. We interpret these results as support for semantic enrichment as a key element in producing the enhancing effect of negative pictures that are presented after a retrieval attempt.


PMID: 22477237

DOI: 10.3758/s13421-012-0203-7

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