Memory for emotionally arousing stimuli: A comparison of younger and older adults

Hajime Otani, Terry M. Libkuman, Robert J. Widner, Emily I. Graves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The authors compared emotional memory in younger (aged 18-32 years) and older (aged 59-84 years) adults. Previous researchers who investigated the emotion-memory relationship in younger adults consistently showed that emotional arousal enhances memory for central detail. The present authors' goal was to determine whether a similar effect could be found with older adults. Younger and older adults viewed a series of 12 slides, accompanied by a taped narrative, that showed emotionally arousing or neutral scenes in the middle phase (Slides 5-8). Participants then completed recognition tests that were scored for central detail, peripheral detail, and gist. The results indicated that, although younger adults showed higher performance than older adults did, both groups showed increased memory for central detail. In contrast, the authors found no such enhancement for peripheral detail or gist in either group. These results indicated that the arousal manipulation produced a similar effect on memory in younger and older adults. Furthermore, these results were consistent with the notion of poststimulus elaboration, which is the continued processing of central detail after the termination of an arousing event.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-42
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of General Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007


  • Aging
  • Central and peripheral details
  • Emotion
  • Gist
  • Memory
  • Poststimulus elaboration
  • Preattentive processing


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