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Department of Psychology


Publication details

Pottage, C.L. & Schaefer, A. (2012). Visual attention and emotional memory: Recall of aversive pictures is partially mediated by concurrent task performance. Emotion 12(1): 33-38.

Author(s) from Durham


The emotional enhancement of memory is often thought to be determined by attention. However, recent evidence using divided attention paradigms suggests that attention does not play a significant role in the formation of memories for aversive pictures. We report a study that investigated this question using a paradigm in which participants had to encode lists of randomly intermixed negative and neutral pictures under conditions of full attention and divided attention followed by a free recall test. Attention was divided by a highly demanding concurrent task tapping visual processing resources. Results showed that the advantage in recall for aversive pictures was still present in the DA condition. However, mediation analyses also revealed that concurrent task performance significantly mediated the emotional enhancement of memory under divided attention. This finding suggests that visual attentional processes play a significant role in the formation of emotional memories.