Memory for Emotional Events

Daniel Reisberg and Friderike Heuer

in Memory and Emotion

Published in print January 2004 | ISBN: 9780195158564
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199848126 | DOI:

Series: Series in Affective Science

Memory for Emotional Events

Show Summary Details


This chapter documents the progress that has been made in our understanding of how people remember emotional events, but also highlight substantial gaps in our knowledge. It demonstrates that, in a wide range of circumstances, emotion promotes memory for all event's “central” materials, but also emotion seems to have the opposite effect, undermining memory, in terms of details at an event's “periphery”. However, this latter effect may be produced not by emotion itself but by the presence of powerful “attention magnets” found within some (but by no means all) emotional events. The chapter then explores possible limits of this data pattern, with an eye on how different types and different strengths of emotion may influence memory differently. In general, emotion seems to have a positive effect on memory, increasing memory vividness, accuracy, completeness, and longevity. On the other hand, extremely intense emotions may work against memory, perhaps by interrupting the biological processes needed for memory consolidation. The available evidence directly challenges some long-held and often-quoted claims, including the Yerkes-Dodson law and the Easterbrook hypothesis of arousal and memory.

Keywords: memory; emotion; periphery; attention magnets; emotional events; vividness; accuracy; Yerkes-Dodson law; Easterbrook hypothesis; arousal

Chapter.  18282 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.