Memory for contextual details: Effects of emotion and aging

Elizabeth A. Kensinger*, Olivier Piguet, Anne C. Krendl, Suzanne Corkin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


When individuals are confronted with a complex visual scene that includes some emotional element, memory for the emotional component often is enhanced, whereas memory for peripheral (nonemotional) details is reduced, The present study examined the effects of age and encoding instructions on this effect. With incidental encoding instructions, young and older adults showed this pattern of results, indicating that both groups focused attention on the emotional aspects of the scene. With intentional encoding instructions, young adults no longer showed the effect: They were just as likely to remember peripheral details of negative images as of neutral images. The older adults, in contrast, did not overcome the attentional bias: They continued to show reduced memory for the peripheral elements of the emotional compared with the neutral scenes, even with the intentional encoding instructions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-250
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005
Externally publishedYes


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