It is often said that human beings try to make ideas fit together until they reach a coherent whole that leaves no room for ambiguity or contradiction.

This is what, for example, studies about the Forer Effect or confirmation bias suggest. However, as far as our way of remembering things is concerned, this system of coherently organizing reality goes far beyond that: it tries to work not only with ideas but also with emotions. This is what the studies of the famous cognitive psychologist Gordon H. Bower suggest.

Memories And Emotions

In the seventies, Bower researched how we store and evoke memories depending on mood. He asked a series of people to memorize lists of words going through different moods. Then, he observed their differences when remembering these words while also passing through different moods.

In this way, he found a tendency to remember with greater ease the elements memorized in a state of mind, similar to the one we have at the moment of evoking them. Being sad, we will more easily evoke ideas or experiences that were stored in memory while we are sad, and the same happens with other moods.

In the same way, our state of mind will affect at the moment of selecting what is stored in the memory: what is the information that will be most important for its later recovery.

Thus, being in a good mood, we will pay more attention to the things we value as positive, and it will be these memories that are most easily evoked later. Bower called all this phenomenon “mood-congruent processing,” or “processing congruent with the state of mind.”

The imprint in the memory

In short, someone could say that we tend to evoke memories that do not contradict what we are thinking or perceiving at a particular time. And yet, this would be an incomplete explanation, because it does not go beyond explaining that coherence has to do with the logical structuring of ideas and the rational.

The work of Gordon H. Bower tells us about a kind of coherence that goes deep into the field of emotions. The emotional state, definitely, leaves its mark on the memory.


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