Motor Action and Emotional Memory
Cognition, Vol. 115, No. 1, pp. 179-185, 2010
7 Pages Posted: 3 May 2010
Date Written: April 1, 2010
Can simple motor actions affect how efficiently people retrieve emotional memories, and influence what they choose to remember? In Experiment 1, participants were prompted to retell autobiographical memories with either positive or negative valence, while moving marbles either upward or downward. They retrieved memories faster when the direction of movement was congruent with the valence of the memory (upward for positive, downward for negative memories). Given neutral-valence prompts in Experiment 2, participants retrieved more positive memories when instructed to move marbles up, and more negative memories when instructed to move them down, demonstrating a causal link from motion to emotion. Results suggest that positive and negative life experiences are implicitly associated with schematic representations of upward and downward motion, consistent with theories of metaphorical mental representation. Beyond influencing the efficiency of memory retrieval, the direction of irrelevant, repetitive motor actions can also partly determine the emotional content of the memories people retrieve: moving marbles upward (an ostensibly meaningless action) can cause people to think more positive thoughts.
Keywords: Autobiographical memory, Embodied cognition, Emotion, Language production, Motor action, Metaphor
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