Much is known about how the emotional content of words affects memory for those words, but only recently have researchers begun to investigate whether emotional content influences metamemory—that is, learners’ assessments of what is or is not memorable. The present study replicated recent work demonstrating that judgments of learning (JOLs) do indeed reflect the superior memorability of words with emotional content. We further contrasted two hypotheses regarding this effect: a physiological account in which emotional words are judged to be more memorable because of their arousing properties, versus a cognitive account in which emotional words are judged to be more memorable because of their cognitive distinctiveness. Two results supported the latter account. First, both normed arousal (Exp. 1) and normed valence (Exp. 2) independently influenced JOLs, even though only an effect of arousal would be expected under a physiological account. Second, emotional content no longer influenced JOLs in a design (Exp. 3) that reduced the primary distinctiveness of emotional words by using a single list of words in which normed valence and arousal were varied continuously. These results suggest that the metamnemonic benefit of emotional words likely stems from cognitive factors.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)