What Is Emotional Memory?

What Is Emotional Memory?

What is emotional memory? It is this notion that some highly emotional moments are more memorable than others. Many examples of this can be found in everyday life. Perhaps you still remember the details of what happened on the day of your first kiss or when you received your first salary. Perhaps you still recall the day you lost a loved one. This is due to what we term ‘emotional memory’.

It can also refer to how someone or something you interact with triggers an existing memory. This is the reason why we sometimes take an immediate liking to some people that we have met very recently. For example, you are at a party and someone is wearing a perfume or aftershave scent that is the same as you or your spouse use. You may suddenly and automatically take a liking to that person. This is due to the fragrance triggering a memory associated with happiness and affection for the person inside the memory. You attribute that same feeling to the new person you have met, thereby creating that immediate liking and warmth.

There is also another kind of emotional memory that is described using the term ‘flashbulb memory’. Do not be fooled by the term. This kind of emotional memory has more to do with an external event than it has to do with your own memory. For example, the September 11 attacks in the USA or when your favorite sports team won the World Cup. Such huge events are associated with a lot of emotion – grief, sadness, shock and sorrow in the former case and happiness, joy, exuberance in the latter. Whatever the emotion, the magnitude of it is what gives one the capacity for a flashbulb memory. Thus, we see many people who can still clearly remember where they were and what they were doing when the news about the September 11 attacks broke. This is one of the most common examples of flashbulb memory across the world.

Emotional memory is also the reason why the world has to deal with PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The most common patients of such symptoms are soldiers, who see a lot of gore and strife around them. The emotions which their hearts and souls undergo during such hard times produce some really lasting personality changes in them, which is why most war veterans undergo procedures for dealing with PTSD when they return from a scene of war.

Human evolutionary biology teaches us that in case of extreme danger, our bodies go into what is known as a ‘fight or flight’ mode. In other words, when faced with some danger, blood is pumped into our limbs to either take action by fighting or by fleeing the scene of danger. Though we cannot control what dangers we will face in life, we can certainly choose when to be happy. Since emotional memory is not necessarily linked to the type of emotion one experiences, it can be useful to cultivate a habit of choosing happiness during the day as much as possible. That way, we can build a string of happy memories through our life.

So don’t wait for a special occasion or an event – do something that makes you and your family/friends happy and create sunshine moments to cherish.

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