Incidental encoding of emotional pictures: Affective bias studied through
Emotional stimuli are better remembered than neutral stimuli. Most of the studies taking into account this emotional bias refer to explicit memory, use behavioral measures of the recall and predict better recall of negative stimuli. The few studies taking into account implicit memory and the valence emotional dimension are inconclusive on the effect of the stimulus' emotional valence. In the present study, 120 pictures (30 positive, 30 negative, 30 relaxing and 30 neutral) were shown to, and assessed by, 28 participants (study phase). Subsequently, event related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded during the presentation of 120 new (shown for the first time) and 120 old (already shown in the study phase)pictures (test phase). No explicit instructions or clues related to recovery were given to participants, and a distractor task was employed, in order to maintain implicit the memory assessment. As expected from other studies' data, our results showed that old stimuli elicited an enhanced late positive component 450 ms after stimulus onset (repetition effect). Moreover, this effect was modulated by the stimuli's emotional valence, since the most positively valenced stimuli were associated with a decreased repetition effect with respect to the most negatively valenced stimuli. This effect was located at ventromedial prefrontal cortex. These results suggest the existence of a valence-mediated bias in implicit memory.