How acute stress during consolidation affects memory for negative materials with different arousal levels
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Both human and animal research has demonstrated that acute stress affects memory, and the nature of this effect depends on when the stress occurs. Stress during consolidation consistently enhances memory, but there is disagreement as to whether memory for emotional or neutral information is improved. The animal research suggests that only memory for emotionally arousing information is enhanced following stress during consolidation. However, human studies have found memory improvements for both emotional and neutral information. According to theory based on animal research, memory for the most arousing material should be enhanced as a result of stress during consolidation. Because of this discrepancy between the animal and the human literature, the current study investigated the effect of acute psychological stress on memory for both low arousal and high arousal negative stimuli. We predicted that stress during consolidation would enhance memory, particularly for the high arousal negative stimuli. We found that stress did not have an effect on item memory performance and that stress actually reduced participant’s confidence in their memory.