How emotions affect memory

Natalia Kuznetsova-Rice
Natalia Kuznetsova-Rice
July 13 3 min read
Realeyes emotion measurement and analytics

90% of human behavior is driven by emotions. When it comes to emotions created by video content, we’ve learned that high engagement is associated with an increase in earned media and sales growth

Apart from these two very enjoyable outcomes, the level of emotions experienced by viewers during your video may enhance memorization of your video content. 

It probably won't come as a surprise that the more emotionally charged an event is, the better and longer we remember it. Think of your happy childhood moment – when you first rode your bike or found an Easter egg; or think of a scary one – how you felt frightened to enter a dark room or when you saw something threatening and unpleasant. Or think about last month – chances are you remember all the details of that emotional conversation you had – where you were, what part of the day it was and what exactly your counterpart was saying or writing.  

It is because emotions associated with an event make this event memorable. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s not the importance of the event that helps memory – it’s emotions experienced at the time of the event.  And it doesn’t stop there – as Dr. McPherson explains, “The memory of strong images and events may be at the expense of other information.” It means your memory may sacrifice neutral events to give way to more emotionally charged ones. It can be particularly observed in a sequence of events: if a bland event or a visual is followed by an emotional one, the former may not be registered. This phenomenon is particularly observed in women. Marketers, take note!

Recent scientific studies have found that emotions play a role at all three stages of memorization: 
-    Remembering (encoding) information
-    Consolidating memories
-    Recalling memories

But do all emotions have a similar impact? Not quite. Dr. McPherson draws a favorable picture of pleasant emotions in comparison to unpleasant ones: they contain more contextual details of an event or image, they are remembered better, and they also fade more slowly from our memory. Marketers, take note again. 

One key takeaway to remember is the stronger the emotions aroused, the greater the effect on memory. 

Realeyes emotion measurment and analytics 

See what we did here? We put this image to make sure this line stays with you. Did it work?

In the busy and noisy world of brand communication it’s worth remembering the following:

Be emotionally intelligent. 
Nothing beats emotional engagement. Apart from memorization, emotions are tightly connected with attention. The more emotionally charged the message is, the more enthusiastic a recipient is to respond to it.

Think about the context. 
A message neutral in tonality will be erased by the more emotional one, especially in advertising breaks. Be the latter one.

Gender differences play a role in emotional memories. 
Women are more affected by emotional content and are better at memorizing it.  

SOURCES:
1.    Dr. McPherson, The role of emotion in memory. 
2.    Emotions and memory. 
3.    Emotions and memory. 
4.    Hamann, S. 2001. Cognitive and neural mechanisms of emotional memory. Trends in Cognitive Sciences.
 
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