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Memory & Cognition

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Recent experiments have implied that emotional arousal causes a narrowing of attention and, therefore, impoverished memory encoding. In contrast, other studies have found that emotional arousal enhances memory for all aspects of an event. We report two experiments investigating whether these differing results are due to the different retention intervals employed. in past studies or to their different categorization schemes for the to-be-remembered- material. Our results indicate a small role for retention interval in moderating emotion’s effects on memory. However, emotion had markedly different impacts on different types of material: Emotion improved memory for gist and basic-level visual information and for plot-irrelevant details associated, both temporally and spatially, with the event’s center. In contrast, emotion undermined memory for details not associated with the event’s center. The mechanisms for emotion’s effects are discussed.