The processing of images of biological threats in visual short-term memory

Quinlan, Philip and Yue, Yue and Cohen, Dale (2017) The processing of images of biological threats in visual short-term memory. Proceedings of The Royal Society B, 284 (1861). ISSN 0962-8452

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The idea that there is enhanced memory for negatively, emotionally charged pictures was examined. Performance was measured under rapid, serial visual presentation (RSVP) conditions in which, on every trial, a sequence of six photo-images was presented. Briefly after the offset of the sequence two alternative images (a target and a foil) were presented and participants attempted to choose which image had occurred in the sequence. Images were of threatening and non-threatening cats and dogs. The target depicted either an animal expressing an emotion distinct from the other images, or the sequences contained only images depicting the same emotional valence. Enhanced memory was found for targets that differed in emotional valence from the other sequence images, compared to targets that expressed the same emotional valence. Further controls in stimulus selection were then introduced and the same emotional distinctiveness effect obtained. In ruling out possible visual and attentional accounts of the data, an informal dual route topic model is discussed. This places emphasis on how visual short-term memory reveals a sensitivity to the emotional content of the input as it unfolds over time. Items that present with a distinctive emotional content stand out in memory.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: The final version is available at
Keywords: visual short-term memory, memory for biological threats, emotional memory enhancement, emotional distinctiveness
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Science > Psychology
Depositing User: Yue Yue
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 15:09
Last Modified: 20 Sep 2017 15:09

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