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Memory and Law$
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Lynn Nadel and Walter P. Sinnott-Armstrong

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199920754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199920754.001.0001

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Emotion’s Impact on Memory

Emotion’s Impact on Memory

(p.7) 1 Emotion’s Impact on Memory
Memory and Law

Elizabeth A. Phelps

Oxford University Press

A strong emotional reaction to an event often results in an increased sense of vividness and confidence when recollecting that event in the future. However, these vivid and confident memories for emotional events can sometimes be surprisingly inaccurate in their details. This chapter reviews psychological and neuroscience research illustrating how the emotional quality of events might alter later memory. The chapter examines how the rich recollective experience of shocking and emotional events may result from the selective attention and memory storage for a few critical details of the event resulting in strong, and likely accurate, memory for these details. This strong memory for a few details of the event may result in a mistaken belief in the accuracy of other memory details. A possible reason is that memory vividness serves to promote fast action in the face of future, similar events, and the critical details are likely those that are most important for determining future actions. Implications for the reliability of memory in legal settings are discussed.

Keywords:   emotion, recollection, attention, accuracy, memory confidence

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