Mechanisms underlying memory enhancement for disgust over fear

Ella K. Moeck, Lucy A. Matson, Melanie K.T. Takarangi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Disgust is remembered better than fear, despite both emotions being highly negative and arousing. But the mechanisms underlying this effect are not well-understood. Therefore, we compared two proposed mechanisms underlying superior memory for disgust. According to the memory consolidation mechanism, it is harder (but crucial) to remember potentially contaminating vs. threatening stimuli. Hence, disgust elicits additional memory consolidation processes to fear. According to the attention mechanism, it takes longer to establish if disgust (relative to fear) stimuli are dangerous. Hence, people pay more attention to disgust during encoding. Both mechanisms could boost memory for disgust. Ninety-eight participants encoded disgust, fear, and neutral images whilst completing a simple task to measure attention. After 10- or 45-min delay, participants freely recalled the images. We found enhanced memory for disgust relative to fear after 10- and 45-min delay, but this effect was larger after 45-min. Participants paid more attention to disgust than fear images during encoding. However, mixed effect models showed increased attention did not contribute to enhanced memory for disgust. Our results therefore support the memory consolidation mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1237
Number of pages7
JournalCognition and Emotion
Volume35
Issue number6
Early online date2 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • attention
  • Disgust
  • emotional memory
  • fear

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