Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.
“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,” explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.
“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind,” Davachi continues. “These findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”
We have known for quite some time that emotional experiences are better remembered than non-emotional ones. However, in the Nature Neuroscience study, the researchers demonstrated that non-emotional experiences that followed emotional ones were also better remembered on a later memory test.