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Down in the Dumps? Having Trouble Studying for that Test? Turn that Frown Upside Down for Better Associative Memory

November 19th, 2015 No comments

We’ve all been there before: It’s the end of the first semester at Colby College, your work is piling up, the temperature is plummeting amidst strong unrelenting and merciless winds, and sunshine is beginning to slip away at the premature hour of 4 pm. You just feel, well, bad. You are experiencing all of this negative emotion during this stressful time, and you can’t seem to shake it! Well, better get yourself a Happy Light to shoo away that Seasonal Affective Disorder because if you want your memory to be in tip-top shape so you can conquer your final exams, you may need to turn that frown upside down.

Previous research has suggested that memories of events that are infused with high levels of emotion can facilitate an individual’s ability to recall those memories (Brown & Kulik, 1977). Emotional events that occur in our everyday lives are usually remembered well, whereas neutral events do not reside as vividly in our memory. This phenomenon is evident in the existence of flashbulb memories, which are vivid and poignant memories of specific events that are assessed in the moment of the event, but are retained in long-term memory. For instance, you might have a visual snapshot of the time you labored for long hours to concoct a birthday cake for your Great Aunt Patricia, and then tripped over a small beetle, causing the cake to hurdle to its death on the unforgiving kitchen floor! Surely you are never going to forget that incident. (Even though you may desperately want to).

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