Cognitive and Clinical Perspectives on Mood Dependent Memory

Eric Eich

Recent years have witnessed a revival of research interest in the interplay between cognitive and emotional processes. Much of this interest has centered on mood dependent memory (MDM)--the observation that events experienced in a certain state of affect or mood are most retrievable in that mood.

In aid of better understanding MDM, researchers have pursued two distinct but complementary approaches. One approach features laboratory studies involving experimentally induced moods, and focuses on cognitive factors that play pivotal roles in the occurrence of mood dependence (factors such as the manner in which to-be-remembered or target events are encoded and the nature of the retrieval task). The second approach concentrates on clinical studies involving naturally occurring moods. The question posed in these studies is whether it is possible to demonstrate MDM in people who experience marked shifts in mood state as a consequence of a psychopathological condition, such as manic/depressive illness or dissociative identity (aka multiple personality) disorder.

In today's talk, I will review recent research on both of these fronts, and illustrate some of the advantages of studying MDM from both a cognitive and a clinical perspective. Time permitting, I will also outline an on-going project that investigates some surprising and theoretically interesting asymmetries in the extent to which information transfers across “normal” versus “abnormal” states of consciousness.

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