Recognition memory studies often find that emotional items are more likely than neutral items to be labelled as studied. Previous work suggests this bias is driven by increased memory strength/familiarity for emotional items. We explored strength and bias interpretations of this effect with the conjecture that emotional stimuli might seem more familiar because they share features with studied items from the same category. Categorical effects were manipulated in a recognition task by presenting lists with a small, medium or large proportion of emotional words. The liberal memory bias for emotional words was only observed when a medium or large proportion of categorised words were presented in the lists. Similar, though weaker, effects were observed with categorised words that were not emotional (animal names). These results suggest that liberal memory bias for emotional items may be largely driven by effects of category membership.
- Category effects
- Emotional memory
- Recognition memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)