The influence of auditory arousal modulation on disruption of associative memory

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It has been widely shown that negative emotion enhances memory for individual items, while impairing associative memory by weakening associative binding between elements. The evidence for this account was obtained by using affective images and by administering an electric shock, the common procedures of inducing arousal in memory research. We believe that such methods induce too strong an emotional reaction that, similarly to a stress response, impairs memorization. Thus, we hypothesized that emotional impairment of associative memory is not absolute but can be modulated as a function of strength of negative affect and complexity of associations. Therefore, we designed two new pilot experiments where we tested (a) whether modulating physical properties of auditory stimuli would be directly reflected on induced levels of arousal, and (b) whether the suggested paradigm of modulating difficulty of associations is effective at measuring associative memory performance. The findings of the auditory pilot indicate that the alarms we created show a strong effect on perceived levels of arousal and can be a reliable alternative in inducing arousal to images or an electric shock. Results of the memory pilot suggest that modulation of difficulty in location-object association can be produced by modifying the level of semantic or visual congruency between the elements. Our findings lay the groundwork for a new experimental paradigm which will allow us to look closely at the neural interplay of emotional and mnemonic systems. Keywords: associative memory, modulation, emotional arousal, alarm sounds, alarms
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen