Influence of emotional valence and arousal on the spread of activation in memory


  • Jhean-Larose Sandra
  • Leveau Nicolas
  • Denhière Guy


  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition
  • Memory
  • Emotions

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Controversy still persists on whether emotional valence and arousal influence cognitive activities. Our study sought to compare how these two factors foster the spread of activation within the semantic network. In a lexical decision task, prime words were varied depending on the valence (pleasant or unpleasant) or on the level of emotional arousal (high or low). Target words were carefully selected to avoid semantic priming effects, as well as to avoid arousing specific emotions (neutral). Three SOA durations (220, 420 and 720 ms) were applied across three independent groups. Results indicate that at 220 ms, the effect of arousal is significantly higher than the effect of valence in facilitating spreading activation while at 420 ms, the effect of valence is significantly higher than the effect of arousal in facilitating spreading activation. These findings suggest that affect is a sequential process involving the successive intervention of arousal and valence.

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