The Influence of Emotion on Cognitive Processes

The IB says…

Psychological and neuroscientific research has revealed that emotion and cognition are intertwined. Emotions are believed to perform an adaptive function in that they shape the experience of events and guide the individual in how to react to events, objects and situations with reference to personal relevance and well-being. Memories of emotional events sometimes have a persistence and vividness that other memories seem to lack but there is evidence that even highly emotional memories may fade over time. Relevant concepts related to studying emotion and memory processes could be but are not limited to

  • flashbulb memories
  • theory of the emotional brain
  • the amygdala’s influence on memory encoding
  • appraisal
  • state-dependent memory.

We will study the theory of ‘Flashbulb Memory’ which looks at a possible adaptive, biological mechanism which leads us to create a speical kind of long-lasting and vivid memory in emotionally arousing situations. Lessons to include how biological factors affect one cognitive process e.g. the role of the amygdala, hippocampus, adrenaline and cortisol.

Handout:  explain-bio-factors-and-memory-handout

Powerpoint: bio-factors-and-memory The original CNN news footage of the first coverage of the 911 terror attacks. And more from the original footage from Sky News. This clip is about the 911 terror attacks and Sharot and Phelps’s study.
flashbulb-memory This PowerPoint briefly explains the theory of flashbulb memory and it can be combined with what we know from the bio factors an emotion learning objective in order to flesh out the AO1 side of this possible ERQ.
as_aqa_memory_flashbulbevidence-1 this handout support the PowerPoint fbm and prompts you to record some important information that could go in your essay.
fbm-short-handout: This hand out prompts you to think about a wide range of real life events which prompted studies of FBM. Can you put them in order of when these events happened and match them with the study authors? There is a smart notebook file that goes with this on google drive.
A paper describing George W Bush’s false flashbulb memory of the reporting of the 911 terror attacks: flashbulb.pdf
Read more about the following two studies in Blue Eysenck and use these sheets to complete your notes:
This page prompts you to plan your essay, what is there that supports the ides of FBM, what is there that refutes the credibility of this theory of memory? What can we conclude?

 Further reading on FBM A great article covering some of the theory and studies we have already looked at regarding bio factors and memory. One of my favourite songs. Chilling and painful listening, remembering events of that day, 15 years ago on the other side of the Atlantic.
James McGaugh  book chapter; useful reading when doing your essays:

Can you answer the following questions?
What do psychologists mean when they talk about “flashbulb memory”?
How many events can you think of that might be the subject of a flashbulb memory?
How might psychologists investigate flashbulb memory?
What problems might they encounter?
What evidence is there to support the concept of FBM?
What evidence is there that refutes the concept of FBM?
What is the scientific value of this research?
How can research in this area contribute to society?

Methods: This SAQ focuses on the research method of laboratory experiment and the example of Cahill and McGaugh (1995). You could of course choose a different method and/or a different study however, you should know lab experiments really well by now and Cahill and McGaugh (1995) also presents some useful points for an ethics answer too, especially if you use the second part of the study, where they gave the experimental group beta-blockers:
Ethics: Explain one ethical consideration with reference to one research study on emotion and cognition. (9)

I would choose Cahill and McGaugh again and include the section where they used propranolol to reduce recall of emotional elements of the story; you could focus on ay of deception, harm, consent , debriefing, etc.

SAQ: Explain/describe/outline the influence of emotion on one cognitive process with reference to one research study. (9)

I would do flashbulb memory and use Cahill and McGaugh as an illustrative example of how emotion can affect memory as this study is great for methods and ethcis question on this topic as well.


  • Discuss the influence of emotion on one cognitive process with reference research evidence. (22)
  • Evaluate research into the influence of emotion on one cognitive process. (22)
  • To what extent is one cognitive process influenced by emotion. (22)