An experimental study of the emotional valence of involuntarily recalled autobiographical memories

Amemiya, Y.; Sekiguchi, T.

The Japanese journal of psychology 77(4): 351-359


DOI: 10.4992/jjpsy.77.351
Accession: 068501798

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Involuntary recollection of autobiographical memories refers to memories of personal experiences that pop into consciousness with no preceding attempts at remembering. In a laboratory experiment, we examined the effect of emotional valence on the involuntary recollection of autobiographical memories. Participants evaluated the familiarity of four words referring to various events (cues for autobiographical recollection) and then reported whether they had unintentionally recalled past experiences during these evaluations. We manipulated the emotional valence (positive/negative) and specificity (specific/common) of the cue words. In the specific-event condition, cue words for positive events elicited more involuntary memories than those for negative events. In addition, the mean frequency of recollection was higher in the specific-event condition than that in the common-event condition. These results are consistent with studies that used diary methods, which showed a dominance of positive events in involuntary recollection of autobiographical memories.