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How do emotions affect our memories? The Gordon Bower theory

How do emotions affect our memories? The Gordon Bower theory

November 27, 2021

From the psychology responsible for studying how we think, how we make decisions and how we seek explanations about what we perceive, it is often said that human beings try to make ideas fit together until they reach a coherent whole that leaves no room for ambiguity or contradiction.

This is what, for example, studies about the Forer Effect or the confirmation bias . However, as far as our way of remembering things is concerned, this system of coherently organizing reality goes far beyond that: it tries to work not only with ideas, but also with emotions. It is what the studies of the famous cognitive psychologist suggest Gordon H. Bower .


Memories and emotions

In the seventies, Bower He conducted research on our way of storing and evoke memories depending on the state of mind . He asked a series of people to memorize lists of words going through different moods. Then, he observed their differences when remembering these words, while also passing through various moods.

In this way found a tendency to remember more easily memorized elements in a mood similar to the one we have when evoking them . Being sad, we will more easily evoke ideas or experiences that were stored in memory while we are sad, and the same happens with other moods.


In the same way, our state of mind will affect at the moment of selecting what is stored in the memory: what is the information that will be most important for its later recovery. Thus, being in a good mood we will pay more attention to the things we value as positive, and it will be these memories that are most easily evoked later. Bower called all this phenomenon "mood-congruent processing ", Or" processing congruent with the state of mind ".

The imprint in memory

In short, someone could say that we tend to evoke memories that do not contradict what we are thinking or perceiving at a certain time ... And yet, this would be an incomplete explanation, because it does not go beyond explaining that coherence that it has to do with the logical structuring of ideas, the rational. The work of Gordon H. Bower tells us about a kind of coherence that goes deep into the field of emotions. The emotional state definitely leaves its mark on the memory .



Gordon H. Bower - 2005 National Medal of Science (November 2021).


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