The impact of emotion on prospective memory and monitoring: No pain, big gain
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The emotionally enhanced memory effect is robust across studies of retrospective memory, with heightened recall for items with emotional content (e.g., words like "murder") relative to neutral items (e.g., words like "envelope"). Only a handful of studies have examined the influence of emotion on prospective memory (PM), with mixed results. In some cases emotion enhances PM, and in others it impairs PM. Interpretation of these findings is clouded by methodological differences across studies and by the fact that, to date, no study has examined the impact of emotion on PM monitoring. In our study, we assessed PM performance when PM targets were neutral, negative, and positive, and also investigated monitoring across these different PM target types. Participants showed heightened PM performance for positive and negative relative to neutral targets, yet there was no evidence of additional monitoring for emotional targets. In fact, measures of monitoring were significantly reduced when the PM targets were emotional rather than neutral. Our findings suggest that it is possible to boost PM performance in a focal task using emotional cues, and that the use of emotional cues reduces the need for monitoring.
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