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The Effect Of Mood On False Memory For Emotional DRM Word Lists 

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  1. 1.Introduction
    1. What is being studied? Weiwei Zhang, Julien Gross and Harlene Hayne were curious about the effect mood would have on memory. They recognized that previous studies on mood and memory that used the DRM lists had only manipulated the lists or the mood of the participants but not both. The team also noticed that the word lists were not congruent in arousal, valence and backward association strength. With the lack of attention to this detail, it was obvious that the lists were not desirable in testing the effect of mood on memory. It became clear that first, they had to create new DRM lists with words that all invoked a similar emotional response eliminating any neutral words from the lists.

    2. What past studies with similar research design found?
    3. Real world implications related …. Integral to this research is a well- known laboratory study used for memory – the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm where word lists are used. This theory was elaborated on by additionally asking participants if they remembered the work vividly (remember) or if they just knew it was there before (know) (Brainerd, Reyna, 2005; Gallo 2013). When participants shared their judgment the fallibility of memory became even more apparent. One study by Brainerd, Reyna, Stein, Silveira, and Rohenkohl (2008) found lists that had a negative tone produced more false recognition rates for critical lures. This study contradicted another one that supported positive moods increased false recall (Storebeck and Clore 2005). Many researchers refer to the Affective Norms for English Words to establish the value of a work determined by the arousal, valence, and BAS. One of the challenges found is that not all of the words on the lists were on the database. Other research gathered to determine the value of the words BAS but not the arousal or valence which could trigger an emotional response from the reader. It was apparent that these list and the database were subprime for a study trying to determine the effect of mood on behavior.

      Understanding how mood affects memory could really help us to evaluate our own memories and the shared memories of others. With memory being so fallible understanding this would also be helpful to interpersonal relationships. It would introduce many implications in court cases and the testimonies provided. If we understand the effect mood has on memory we may be able to evoke an increase in true recall or debunk false memories easier. At the very least we may unlock the increased understanding of ourselves and our perceptions.

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    4. Was the information clearly presented? Though all of the evidence may be a bit confusing with multiple factors for words and controversy due to how contradictory the studies were I think that the team did a good job summarizing information and their considerations.
  2. Method
    1. Participants, Materials, Procedure, and Data analysis: It was decided that the first step was to create emotional word lists as well as determine the arousal, valence, and BAS for all the words on the lists. Sixty participants were recruited for the first experiment to create the word lists. All participants had normal (or corrected) vision. A health history showed that no known mood disorders were affecting any of the test subjects.
    2. The ages of the participants only varied by 17 years. This would remove the variable of age on memory. They were all college students which are typically overwhelmed, fatigued and stressed which may negatively affect mood and memory. Five positive and seven negative critical lures were chosen from previous research (Brainerd et al. 2010; Budson et al. , 2006; Howe & Malone, 2011 Joormann et al. , 2009. Ruci et al. , 2009, Thijssen, Otgaar, Howe, & de Ruiter 2013) as well as seven critical lures from Roediger, Watson, McDermott, and Gallo (2001). All words that could be perceived as neutral were avoided. Any words listed that had a differing valence from the critical lure were also eliminated from the study. Groups of 10 were created. They were shown 233 words. After seeing the word they were asked to respond by typing the first word that came to their mind and then asses the emotional valence and arousal of the word using an adapted version of Bradley and Lang’s (1999) Self- Assesment Manikin (SAM). This assessment used a 9-point rating scale completed with pictorial cues portraying a wide-eyed figure to a calm, relaxed figure. A mean score was calculated for each word for BAS, arousal, and valence. Then all the lists were given a mean score by averaging all the words’ BAS on the list. Four-word lists were selected for each emotional overtone – negative, positive and neutral, based on the overall BAS values. Each list had the top 10 list words based on the BAS value.

    3. Comment on the Internal validity The method the researchers used seemed to be well executed and thought out. The only thing I would consider is the choice in the top 10 list words. It was decided that they should be chosen by the BAS – which makes sense when you consider spreading activation theory, however since they were trying to figure out if mood would influence memory I might have given the arousal value of the words more weight and then organized my list from there. This may have illumined what resulted – that the negative lists had a higher emotional valence and the positive word lists had the lowest emotional valence.
  3. Highlight the results found.
  4. To test the word lists three separate one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted. The type (positive, negative, neutral) was the independent variable and the arousal, valence, and BAS were the dependent variables. All lists were proximal in BAS and arousal values. However, when they assessed the values of emotional valence for the word list and the critical lures the negative lists had the highest emotional valence and the positive word list had the lowest emotional valence in both cases.


  1. What conclusions were drawn? Did the words meet the researchers criteria…
  2. The experiment was somewhat successful because they had accomplished what they set out to do – which was to compile word list that all had matching emotional content and equal BAS and arousal scores. The fact that the positive word lists and critical lures had significantly lower emotional valence scores than the negative or neutral lists does make me wonder if it was a choice of the words, if organizing them by arousal would have illuminated a difference in the strength of the positive and negative choices, or if our emotions tend to be more intense to experience when they are negative. Overall I think the new lists will be a valuable addition to the existing DRM lists for future research. Since the end result of experiment 2 (which was the whole reason for experiment only showed that recall of neutral and positive lists were comparably better when in a negative mood the findings were anticlimactic. With the compared proximity of the results of the neutral and positive word lists I do wonder if the arousal strength of the positive words were not very strong or if there could have been more powerful positive word choices. I also wonder if negative emotions have a greater force (than positive feelings) on our cognitive ability. This would make sense if you think of survival. Considering a base survival instinct could be heightened with negative emotions it may also make sense that our thinking becomes more critical and verbatim than gist overall.

  3. Comment on the external validity.
  4. The impact of the findings is mostly non-consequential due to the results. It does offer the opportunity to investigate further the affect emotions have on memory. What I think would be the most interesting to delve into would be if negative emotions triggered our minds to produce more verbatim or gist memories since these results differ the most in the final results of experiment two by the way that when in a negative mood the negative lists produced the highest false memories, but the least positive or neutral false memories.


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