Both information”. This meant that the attentional resources were

Both memory
and emotion are something we often take for granted. They make us who we are,
they are central to our being. Emotions and the way we interpret them lie at
the very foundation of what we consider ourselves to be as human beings, they
are what makes us human. Without them, relationships would disintegrate, the
social world as we know it would cease to exist. Historically, emotions haven’t
always been viewed as a positive and useful trait; Zeno, Plato and Aristotle
liken emotions to a sickness, a kind of pathology and said it disturbs
reasoning. As science and the understanding of human behaviour progressed, the
idea that emotions were a burden was abandoned; Charles Darwin revolutionised
the idea that emotions were an important function; they are an instinct that
preserves the survival of the species. But what counts as emotion? There are so many dichotomies and it can be
defined in so many ways (insert quote about defining emotion – from an academic
journal). The same applies to memory; memory is not a single entity, nor
is it a ‘thing’, it is a multifarious and exceedingly complex process. William
James (1890) said that memory is not the retaining of knowledge, but the
association of ideas, memory is a network and this web of ideas relies on cues
to activate associations. However, the brain is bound by physical limits which
means that sometimes it must rid of ‘useless’ memories and material to avoid
saturation of the synapse.

            Memory and emotion have a strong and
curious relationship. Several studies have sought to explain the effects
emotion has on memory, the most prominent pattern that has come to light, is
that emotionally charged memories seem to be more firmly retained and recalled
in comparison to purely cognitive and neutral memories. Easterbrook (1959)
proposed the idea that arousal causes attentional narrowing, which meant that
an aroused organism would become less sensitive to “peripheral information”.
This meant that the attentional resources were more focused and ‘concentrated’
on the events centre. This pattern is often observed when looking at victims or
witnesses to crimes, known as the ‘weapon focus effect’. Witnesses seem to
focus all their attention (subconsciously) on the weapon the criminal possesses
while they are unaware of their peripheral surroundings. Because of this
narrowing, the witness will remember that the perpetrator was carrying a gun or
a knife in detail but struggle to describe or identify the perpetrator carrying
the weapon.  Continuing with the legal
theme, a study conducted by Bolls, Lang and Potter (2001) revealed that the
emotional tone of a victim statement also impacted the effectiveness of memory
recall. They found that positive-tone messages were remembered far better than
negative-tone messages, even though the latter received more attention. In
comparison, they showed participants videos with both negative tone and
negative content, the results found that the participants became more
physiologically aroused when the videos were more negative. This arousal then
facilitated memory on a recall task.

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            This then leads us on to the
mood-congruence effect which says that individuals retrieve information more
easily when it has the same emotional content as their current state. Nygaard
and Lunders (2002) tested the participants memory with both emotional and
neutral homophones; a word list was presented to the subjects in a happy,
neutral or sad tone. In accordance with the mood congruence effect, the results
showed that memory was at its best when the tone was congruent with the
emotional content of the homophone. According to this theory, negative emotional
statements should be remembered better when said in an emotional and negative
tone. However, Salovey and Singer (1989) found that mood congruence was weaker
when recalling childhood memories in comparison to recent memories. The amount
of sad and negative childhood memories recalled was much less than the number
of happy and positive childhood memories that were recalled by those in a
positive mood. Although, it was noted within the study that childhood memories
had time to lose their emotional demeanour over time.

This is reflected in Wessel and Merckelbach’s (1997, 1998) study
whereby spider phobics were showed a large live spider, and were exposed to
pictures of spiders mounted on a whiteboard. In a memory test, the phobic
participants (the aroused) showed a pattern of attentional narrowing and showed
better memory for the event’s ‘centre’ (the spider), but showed worse memory
for the event’s periphery in comparison to control participants.  This is reflected in a study conducted by Safer et al (1998) whereby
participants were showed a sequence of photographs. One with a woman gathering
flowers in a park (neutral), and the other of a woman being stabbed in the
throat and bleeding on the floor (emotional). Following their exposure, the
participants were then tested with a series of ‘zoomed in’ photographs, they
were asked to select the exact photo they had seen in the earlier sequence.
Unsurprisingly, emotional photos were remembered when the photos were ‘more
zoomed in’ in comparison to the neutral photographs. The participants memories
excluded the peripheral informationHe tested out his hypothesis in an
experiment where animals were deprived of food for periods of time, then the
animal’s sensitivity was tested in relation to cues within its immediate environment.
In a study conducted by Cahill and McGaugh (2003),
they adminsitered the drug propanolo to their subjects which blocks the uptake
of adrenaline at the amygdala,  they
found that emotional memory is more powerful than cognitive memory and that the
bodily/hormonal states affected how well something is remembered.