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Discrete emotions, Memory binding, Sadness, Happy faces, Clinical work







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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


The link between emotion and memory has been a topic of interest in psychological research for over a century. Typically, emotionally arousing items, especially those that are negative, are better remembered compared to neutral items. In contrast, when people are required to link multiple individual items together, negative emotional content often worsens memory, while positive content tends to improve memory for associations. Research on discrete emotions (e.g., happiness, sadness, fear, disgust) suggests that disgusting content is better remembered in item memory tests even compared to material that elicits other negative emotions. However, it remains unclear whether this unique impact of disgust would also be seen in an associative framework. In the current experiment, participants’ item and associative memory for face-name pairs depicting five discrete emotions (i.e., happiness, fear, disgust, sadness, and neutral affect) were tested. It was predicted that emotional, and especially disgusted, faces would be recognized better than neutral faces. In addition, it was predicted that associative memory would be best for names associated with happy faces. I anticipated that names paired with disgusted faces could either be better remembered or more likely to be forgotten compared to names paired with other negative faces. Contrary to predictions, emotional faces were not better recognized than neutral faces in the item memory task; instead, neutral and happy faces were better remembered than fearful and disgusted faces. As well, names paired with happy and neutral faces were more likely to be remembered than names paired with disgusted faces. With respect to research showing that facial identity and expression are processed separately, it was argued that all aspects of the experimental task were in fact tests of associative memory. Implications for the field of emotional facial perception and memory and relevance to clinical work were discussed.