The Effect of Mood on Memory:



The mood of an individual can affect the way that
they recall and create memories. Social
Psychologists have found that a neutral concept can
be remembered as a negative one if the individual
created the memory while in a negative mood.

I was with my friend one day when someone ran up
from behind him and hit him in the jaw. Despite the
fact that we handled the situation respectably, he
was still very shaken up after being assaulted. I
know that he was feeling particularly angry, and self
conscious after the event. We happened to listen to
a certain song that neither of us had heard before,
right after the event.

Several months later I insensitively played the song
in his presence. I could immediately tell that he was
quite shaken up by it. He told me all of the sudden
that something was really bothering him, knowingly I
turned the song off. Soon after he let me know that
he felt much better.

This is an example of how one’s state of mind can
affect the way that they encode an event or concept
into memory. My friend underwent a traumatic
experience, and was still feeling traumatized when
he heard the song for the first time. Because he
linked negative emotions to the melody and subject
matter in the song, hearing the song later activated
some of those same negative emotions and
feelings. A while after I turned the music off my
friend reported to me that he had never heard the
song before. This tells me that he did not
consciously link the song to the negative
experience. He must have linked parts of the song,
perhaps unconsciously, to the evocation of negative
emotion.

The psychological study of Social Cognition also
reveals that one’s mood can affect not only the
coding of certain memories but also the retrieval of
them as well. This means that if you recall a neutral
memory while in either a positive or negative mood
that you are likely to remember it as either more
positive or more negative than it really was.

Thus if my friend were to recall the fight while
experiencing a positive mood, he may then
remember the positive aspects of it, (like his
honorable response to the assault, or our
teamwork). This might cause him to remember the
situation in a favorable, positive light in the future.
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