Emotion & Memory

 What is emotion?
 A feeling?
 Then what is a feeling?
 These terms are difficult to define and even more
difficult to understand completely.
 30 yrs ago, experimental psychology silent
on emotions
 Psych wants to be a science, emotions too
 How do you even study emotion?
 Emotional revolution (1990 – and ongoing)
R. Zajonc: Humans have emotions! Emotions
affect thinking and behavior.
 The mainstream definition of emotion
refers to a feeling state involving
thoughts, physiological changes, and
an outward expression or behavior.
 But what comes first? The
thought? The physiological
arousal? The behavior?
There are three basic components of emotions:
 Physical: The physical component of emotion is
the arousal of the autonomic nervous system
and endocrine system. We are not consciously
aware of this arousal.
 Cognitive: The cognitive component is our
interpretation of a stimulus or feeling. For
example; if you are alone, sitting in the dark,
watching a scary movie, and you hear a loud
noise, you may become scared.
 Behavioral: This component is the associated
behavior. We cry because we are sad or run
because we are scared.
Biological theories of Emotions
1.James – Lange theory
James-Lange Somatic Theory of
The body informs the mind (we know we are
sad because we cry)
Distinctive body changes/symptoms are
accompanied by different emotions
Perception of these changes/symptoms
determines the experience of emotion
Differences between emotions are a direct
result of the different patterns of
physiological response associated with them
Support for james-lange theory
facial feedback hypothesis
 Such a theory can be supported by research such as Laird’s (
1974) Facial feedback hypothesis.
 According to facial feedback theory, emotion is the experience
of changes in our facial muscles.
 In other words, when we smile, we then experience pleasure,
or happiness.
 When we frown, we then experience sadness.
 It is the changes in our facial muscles that cue our brains and
provide the basis of our emotions.
 Just as there are an unlimited number of muscle
configurations in our face, so to are there a seemingly
unlimited number of emotions
 In his study he induced participants to
make facial expressions corresponding
to specific emotions (with electrodes
attached to face).
 He found that participants reported
emotions consistent with the facial
expression e.g., those told to “pull
brows together” reported feeling angry
. Subjects also had stronger emotional
reactions to stimuli consistent with the
emotion of a particular facial
expression they made e.g., subjects
who smiled found cartoons funnier
than subjects using other facial muscles
Criticism of james-lange
 However a study by Maranon ( 1924) contradicts the
James-Lange theory. Participants were injected with
adrenaline (which is associated with fear).
 71% of participants reported only physical sensations,
with no emotional reaction.
 The remaining participants merely reported ‘as if’ they
were feeling an emotion.
 This suggests that physiological arousal is not sufficient to
produce emotional experiences.
 This suggests that cognitive factors need to be brought
into a theory of emotions.
Schacter ( 1964 ) Two – factor theory
 Schacter ( 1964) was the first theorist to bring together
the two elements of physiological arousal and
 It is sometimes known as the two-factor theory of
 For an emotion to be experienced, a physiological state
of arousal is necessary AND situational factors will then
determine how we interpret this arousal.
 In other words, an event causes physiological arousal
 You must then identify a reason for this arousal and
then you are able to experience and label the emotion.
For example you are walking down a dark alley
late at night. You hear footsteps behind you and
you begin to tremble, your heart beats faster,
and your breathing deepens. Upon noticing this
arousal you realize that is comes from the fact
that you are walking down a dark alley by
This behavior is dangerous and therefore you
feel the emotion of fear.
The strength of physiological arousal will
determine the strength of emotion experienced,
while the situation will determine the type of
These two factors are independent of each other
BUT both are necessary for the emotion to be
A classic study by Schacter & Singer ( 1962)
supports these ideas, in which participants,
unable to label certain emotions looked to the
behavior of confederates in order to provide cues
for their emotions.
This suggests that feelings/emotions are
meaningless in isolation, and it is our labeling of
them which helps us make sense of them.
 IN the history of emotion theory, four major explanations
for the complex mental and physical experiences that we
call "feelings" have been put forward.
They are;
 the James-Lange theory in the 1920's,
(event ==> arousal ==> interpretation ==> emotion)
 the Cannon-Bard theory in the 1930's,
(event ==> Simultaneous arousal and emotion)
 the Schacter-Singer theory in the 1960's,
(event ==> arousal ==> reasoning ==> emotion
 Lazarus theory, developed in the 1980's and ‘90's.
(event ==> thinking ==> Simultaneous arousal and emotion)
Schacter & Singer
 To investigate ‘2 factor theory’ which states
that arousal, plus cognition to make sense of
emotional experience
 Lab experiment
184 Male college students
 IV = information given about adrenaline
 IV = euphoria ( happy ) or angry situation
Schacter & Singer
 4 x physiological conditions
 ‘Ignorant’ - adrenaline + no info
 ‘Informed’ - adrenaline + correct info
 ‘Misinformed’ - adrenaline + wrong info
 Placebo
 2 x emotional conditions
 'euphoria'
 'anger'
Schacter & Singer
 Subjects who were misled or naive ( conditions 1 & 3 )about
the injection's effects needed to explain the arousal they were
experiencing. The behaviour of the confederates acted as a
cue to identify this arousal as anger or euphoria.
 This suggests that subjects who were informed were able to
cognitively attribute the physiological effects of the
adrenaline, while the uninformed or misinformed groups
could perform no such attribution.
 Schachter's cognitive labelling theory derives from these
findings and forms the basis of the Two Factor theory of
Ethics in Schacter & Singer
 No informed consent or proper right of withdrawal
(participants were bribed to take part).
 Participants were deceived and some were harmed by
being made angry.
Schacter & Singer
Other theories
have built on the
work of Schacter
& Singer and
current research
now focuses on
cognition as a
central factor of
Lazarus ( 1982 ) appraisal theory
Whilst there are some problems with
Schacter’s theory it has nonetheless been
an important influence on theoretical
accounts of emotion.
Lazarus has built on the work of Schachter
and also proposed a theory that
demonstrates the interaction of cognitions
and biology in understanding emotions.
 He has however, emphasised the role of cognitions or
‘cognitive appraisals’.
 He argued that an emotion-provoking stimulus triggers a
cognitive appraisal, which is followed by the emotion and
the physiological arousal.
 He suggested we initially make a brief analysis of a
situation in terms of whether or not it represents a threat (
we appraise a situation).
 Cognitive appraisal of the situation determines the level of
physiological arousal and the specific type of emotion to be
 Put simply you must first think about
your situation before you can experience
an emotion.
 For example you are walking down a
dark alley late at night.
 You hear footsteps behind you and you
think it may be a mugger
 so you begin to tremble, your heart beats
faster, and your breathing deepens and at
the same time experience fear
 His theory focuses on the appraisal of
the situation and he identified three
stages of appraisal
 Primary appraisal (relevance) – in
which we consider how the situation
affects our personal well-being or how
threatening the situation is.
 Secondary appraisal (options) - we
consider how we might cope with the
 Reappraisal ( ability to handle
emotion) - Reappraisal refers to
whether the emotion / situation is
changeable or manageable
Primary & secondary
generates emotion/level
of physical arousal
But a reppraisal may occur
depending our coping strategy for
the emotion
We may aim to change the problematic
situation (problem – focused coping)
OR we may be able to handle the
emotion (emotion – focused coping)
Reappraisal may change
quality and intensity of
emotion/level of
physical arousal
Speisman et al ( 1964 )
 A study that supports Lazarus theory is that conducted by Speisman. He
showed college students a film called ‘Sub-incision’, a graphic film about
an initiation ceremony involving unpleasant genital surgery.
 The aim was see if the people’s emotional reactions could be manipulated.
The experiment deliberately manipulated the participants appraisal of the
situation and evaluated the effect of the type of appraisal on their
emotional response.
 Group 1: One group saw the film with no sound. ( control )
 Group 2: Another group heard a soundtrack with a "trauma" narrative
emphasizing the pain, danger, and primitiveness of the operation.
 Group 3: A third group heard a "denial" narration that denied the pain
and potential harm to the boys, describing them as willing participants in
a joyful occasion who "look forward to the happy conclusion of the
 Group 4: The fourth group heard an anthropological ( cultural, scientfic
)interpretation of the ceremony.
Speiseman et al
 Physiological ( heart rate ) and self-report measures of
stress were taken.
 Those who heard the trauma narration reacted with
more stress than the control group (no sound);
 those who heard the denial and scientific narrations
reacted with less stress than the control group.
 Such results seem to support Lazarus’s theory that it is
not the events themselves that elicit emotional stress
but rather the individual’s interpretation or appraisal
of those events.
Le Doux’s (1999) Theory of the
emotional brain
 Due to evolution – emotional reactions are flexible.
Learning to detect danger is essential for survival.
 Humans have also developed ‘conscious experience’ of
emotion that helps to evaluate the level of danger.
 Dual route – two pathways of emotion in the brain
Le Doux’s (1999) Theory of the
emotional brain
Le Doux’s (1999) Theory of the
emotional brain
Le Doux’s (1999) Theory of the
emotional brain
 1. Short Route: Amygdala reacts immediately to
sensory input and activates response system
(physiological stress response – the ‘fight or flight’).
This is useful when one is in immediate danger
where quick reactions are needed.
 2. Long route: The sensory input goes via the
sensory cortex to the hippocampus. This route
involves evaluation of the stimulus and
consideration of an appropriate response. This could
link to Lazarus’ Cognitive Appraisal’.
Emotion and memory
 Where you were ?
 What you were doing ?
 How you were informed
 How you reacted ?
 Japanese Tsunami
 World trade centre ( NY)
was attacked
 Michael Jackson died
Flashbulb memory
 Originally described by Brown & Kulik (1977):
 A theory that refers to vivid and detailed memories of
highly emotional events that appear to be recorded
in the brain as though with the help of a camera’s
 Brown + Kulik suggested that a special mechanism
in the brain is activated by events which produce
high levels of emotion and surprise, and which are
seen as particularly significant. As a result, the entire
scene is 'printed' in memory as a 'flash'.
Survey by Brown & Kulik 1977
 Participants were asked a series of questions testing
their memories of ten major events, such as the
assasination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 (14
years earlier).
 Results showed Memories for such events were
particularly vivid, detailed and long lasting.
 People usually remembered where they were when
they heard the news, how they heard it, what they
and others were doing at the time, and the emotional
impact of the news on themselves and those around
 The probability of report of flashbulb memory
depends on the degree the person remembering was
affected. Black people more likely than caucasians to
have flashbulb memory concerning the deaths of
MLK and Malcolm X (McCloskey, Wible & Cohen
 Danes involved with the Danish resistance
movement more likely than those uninvolved to have
a flashbulb experience – reporting weather, time of
day, day accurately for the liberation of Denmark
(Berntson & Thomsen, 2005)
Three Questions:
 Are Flashbulb Memories as accurate as they seem?
 Do we need a special mechanism to explain them?
 What is the baseline to determine whether a memory
is ‘vivid’?
 Other events such as graduating from college or a
first romance can be recalled in the same way as
flashbulb memories. Suggesting that FLASHBULB
 Flashbulb memories are sometimes quite
INACCURATE. McCloskey et al, 1988, found that
people who were asked to recall the Challenger
explosion recalled an increasing amount of inaccurate
details over time.
Neisser ( 1982)
Questioned the idea of flashbulb memories
on the basis that people do not always know
an event is important until later
He suggested that the memories are so vivid
because the event is rehearsed and
reconsidered after the event
Neisser & Harsch ( 1992)
28 January 1986 7 astronauts
aboard the spaceship
Challenger were killed on
It was a shocking experience
for those who watched the
shuttle launch in person or
on TV
Neisser & Harsch ( 1992)
 AIM: to test Flashbulb memory by investigating the extent to
which the memory of a shocking event would be accurate after a
period of time
 106 Psychology students were given a questionnaire and asked
how they had heard the news of the Challenger shuttle disaster
(eg where they were; what they were doing; emotional
experiences at the time
 Participants answered the questionnaire less than 24 hours after
the event
 36 months later – 44 answered the original questionnaire again.
Asked to rate how confident they were of their memories (1-5).
Also asked if they had filled out a questionnaire on the subject
 Also undertook a semi-structured interview to test whether the
pps could remember what they had previously written. They saw
their original reports from the questionnaire
Results & Evaluation
 11 (of 44) remembered filling out the questionnaire
 Major discrepancies between the original questionnaire and
the follow up. The mean score of correctness of recall was
2.95 out of 7. 11 scored 0. 22 scored 2 or less. Average
confidence level was 4.17.
 Results challenge FM and memory reliability
 Possibly post-event information had influenced their
 Study had high ecological validity. Although Psych students
participating for credit may not be representative.
 Talarico & Robin ( 2003) found that emotional intensity was
often associated with greater memory confidence but not
with accuracy
Neisser ( 1982)
 According to Neisser what is called a flashbulb
memory may simply be a narrative convention.
 The flashbulb memories are governed by a
storytelling schema followed by a specific narrative,
such as place ( where were we?), activity ( what were
we doing?), informant ( who told us?), and affect (
how do we feel about it/)
Further research
 Davidson, Cook & Glisky (2006) contrasted memory of
9/11 with everyday memory. After one year –
correlation of .77 between initial and subsequent
recollection of 9/11 (good retention) compared with .33
for more everyday memories.
 Talarico & Rubin (2003) found the same degree and loss
of detail of 9/11 for both flashbulb and everyday
memories – but participants believed their memories of
9/11 were clearer
Possible explanations of WHY people have vivid
autobiographical memories of ‘flashbulb’ events.
 Incidents highly distinctive – little danger of
being confused with other events
Tendency to talk about the events repeatedly
with others – and see the events in the media –
effectively rehearsing them
 Tend to be important events that create changes
in peoples’ lives
 Events themselves tend to give rise to emotional

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