Conjoint recognition procedures reveal verbatim processing enhances memory for emotionally valenced pictorial stimuli.

Frequently, emotion is associated with enhancements in memory as long as arousal is not too extreme. Negative valence can also lead to increased false memories. Yet less is known about specific memory processes that drive these effects of emotional content on memory performance. The present study uses conjoint recognition analyses to investigate the memory processes associated with memory for negative and positive pictorial stimuli. Participants studied pictures, which had been rated as negative-arousing, positive-arousing, or neutral-non-arousing, before completing a recognition memory test 48 hr later. Contrary to initial expectations based on process-based estimates of emotional words, gist-based processing did not lead to high levels of true memory for negative pictures, nor were negative pictures associated with compellingly real false memories. Instead, negative pictures were recognized more frequently than neutral pictures, and this effect was related to increased verbatim-based identity judgments. However, emotional memory enhancements were not observed for positive pictures. These results indicate that emotional memory enhancements for negative pictures are related to enhanced verbatim processing of emotional material. When false memories did occur for negative pictures, they were because of gist-based similarity judgments as predicted by prior process-based estimates of false memory for negative-arousing words or pictures. Such results are discussed in terms of eyewitness memory and the processes underlying such remembering, because in many criminal and forensically relevant situations, witnesses, who are often victims as well, are asked to recognize the perpetrator or other arousing aspects of an event. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)