Interactions among emotional attention, encoding, and retrieval of ambiguous information: An eye-tracking study

Jonas Everaert*, Ernst H.W. Koster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Emotional biases in attention modulate encoding of emotional material into long-term memory, but little is known about the role of such attentional biases during emotional memory retrieval. The present study investigated how emotional biases in memory are related to attentional allocation during retrieval. Forty-nine individuals encoded emotionally positive and negative meanings derived from ambiguous information and then searched their memory for encoded meanings in response to a set of retrieval cues. The remember/know/new procedure was used to classify memories as recollection-based or familiaritybased, and gaze behavior was monitored throughout the task to measure attentional allocation. We found that a bias in sustained attention during recollection-based, but not familiarity-based, retrieval predicted subsequent memory bias toward positive versus negative material following encoding. Thus, during emotional memory retrieval, attention affects controlled forms of retrieval (i.e., recollection) but does not modulate relatively automatic, familiarity-based retrieval. These findings enhance understanding of how distinct components of attention regulate the emotional content of memories. Implications for theoretical models and emotion regulation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-543
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Attention
  • Familiarity
  • Memory
  • Recollection
  • Retrieval


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