Emotion, Significance, Distinctiveness, and Memory

Stephen R. Schmidt

in Distinctiveness and Memory

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780195169669
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847563 | DOI:
Emotion, Significance, Distinctiveness, and Memory

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Two kinds of stimuli appear to attract special attention and cognitive resources: the novel and the significant. However, these two categories are rarely mutually exclusive. Both in and outside the laboratory, novel events are quite often significant, and significant events are often relatively novel, leading researchers to routinely confuse the impact of these variables on memory and cognitive processes. This chapter explores the relation between novelty and significance. It begins by defining each of these terms and demonstrates how distinctiveness and significance have been confused and confounded in memory research. It then reviews an appraisal theory of emotion as a means toward understanding the impact of significance on cognitive processes. Finally, it presents some research findings that help clarify the distinction between novelty and significance, and argues that their respective impacts on memory and other cognitive processes are very different.

Keywords: novelty; significance; distinctiveness; memory; emotion; novel events; significant events; cognitive processes; appraisal theory

Chapter.  7505 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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