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Weizhen Xie, Weiwei Zhang; Effects of Emotion on Visual Working Memory. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1381. doi: 10.1167/14.10.1381.
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Emotional feelings modulate a wide range of cognitive processes. For example, negative emotion can narrow allocation of cognitive resources to encode memory with enhanced details. However, the nature of this focal enhancement of memory is unclear. Does this enhancement affect qualitative or quantitative aspects of memory? The present study investigated whether negative emotion modulated capacity (quantity) or resolution (quality) of visual working memory (VWM) representation, two independent limits on VWM storage. In a short-term color recall task, observers attempted to retain several colors in VWM over a 1-s retention interval and then recalled one of them by clicking on a continuous color wheel. On each trial, prior to the color recall task, one of three emotion conditions (negative, neutral, or positive) was induced with a gray-scale International Affective Picture System stimulus. Observers rated valence of the emotional stimulus on the Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM) scale. When negative emotion was induced, the subsequent VWM showed enhanced resolution compared to neutral and positive conditions. This effect was replicated for VWM using closed-contour shapes in Experiment 2. To isolate the stage of this effect, Experiment 3 adopted an iconic memory version of the color recall task by eliminating the 1-s retention interval. No significant enhancement in VWM resolution was observed. Because the involvements of perception, attentional, and iconic memory were comparable across Experiment 1 and 3, the selective enhancement of VWM resolution in Experiment 1 cannot be attributed to these factors prior to VWM encoding and maintenance. Taken together, the present results have demonstrated that negative emotion can selectively enhance resolution of internal representations in VWM, independent of VWM capacity, thus supporting the dissociable nature of quantity and quality in VWM.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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