Can Emotions Aid Recall? – how suppressing emotions may affect memory

Can Emotions Aid Recall? – how suppressing emotions may affect memory – Brief Article

Marguerite Lamb

If you think keeping your head requires keeping your cool, think again. New research suggests that suppressing emotions may actually hamper your memory.

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Jane Richards, Ph.D., of the University of Washington and James Gross, Ph.D., of Stanford University, showed participants a film depicting a married couple arguing heatedly. They asked half the subjects to hide their emotions during the viewing, and while both groups later described similar emotional experiences, those who hid their feelings remembered far less.

Next, the researchers looked again at expressive suppression, or hiding emotions, and at reappraisal, or consciously construing negative stimuli as neutral or even positive. Subjects viewed slides of injured accident victims and were told personal information about each. One-third of the subjects were asked to conceal their emotions, another third were told to view the slides with neutral detachment, while the remainder had no special instructions. The results showed that participants who suppressed their emotions recalled fewer details than the other participants.

Richards suggests that hiding emotions requires continuous self-monitoring tapping mental resources critical in forming memories. But defusing emotions at the outset appears to help people pay closer attention. These findings hold important implications, especially when both emotions and stakes are high, such as in the courtroom. “Expressive suppression on the part of jurors–as they attempt to appear calm in front of an entire courtroom–may drain cognitive resources that are critical for evaluating and remembering instructions and testimony.”

COPYRIGHT 2001 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group