Psychonomics 2018

Representitives of the Forensic and Clinical Cognition lab presented at the 2018 International Meeting of the Psychononic Society in Amsterdam. Ella Moeck, Victoria Bridgland and Sasha Nahleen presented their work in poster form at the conference:

Involuntary Cognitions Are Not Exclusive To Negative Or Fragmented Memories: Using Earworms To Understand The ‘Intrusive’.

ELLA K. MOECK and JOSHUA PETERS, Flinders University, IRA E. HYMAN, Western Washington University, MELANIE K.T. TAKARANGI, Flinders University (Sponsored by Ira Hyman)

Earworms (i.e., having a song stuck in your head) provide a window to the mind. Here, we induced earworms for instrumental film music to test two key assumptions of the view that trauma memory is ‘special’ (e.g., Brewin, 2016); first, that re-experiencing is exclusive to emotionally negative stimuli, and second, that fragmented memories involuntarily recur more often than non-fragmented memories. Participants encoded positive or negative music that was deliberately fragmented (played in snippets out of order) or not. Participants who listened to positive music experienced more earworms than participants who listened to negative music (d=.39). Contrary to the special mechanisms view, participants who encoded fragmented music experienced less frequent earworms than participants who encoded nonfragmented music (d=.35). These findings support the basic mechanisms view (e.g., Rubin, Berntsen, & Johansen, 2008); that the same general memory processes underlie positive and negative involuntary cognitions.  We therefore argue the special mechanisms view may be outdated, and general memory processes can explain the circumstances where traumatic memories become problematic. For more information email: Ella Moeck, [email protected]


Is Forewarned Always Forearmed? Effects Of Trigger Warnings On Reactions To Negative And Neutrally Valenced Stimuli

VICTORIA MARY EVEREST BRIDGLAND, Flinders University, DEANNE M. GREEN and JACINTA M. OULTON, Flinders University, MELANIE K.T. TAKARANGI, Flinders University (Sponsored by Melanie Takarangi)

Trigger warnings are messages that alert a person that upcoming content may contain themes that could ‘trigger’ extreme emotional reactions. However, we currently don’t know whether trigger warnings reduce aversive reactions or increase distress. Here, we were interested in whether a warning message about the graphic nature of upcoming visual material (photographs) would influence how viewers react towards that material. We conducted a series of experiments assessing participants’ emotional reactions to the same ambiguous photo stimuli presented with or without a trigger warning. We also manipulated the emotional valence of the photos, by pairing each photo with either a negative, neutral or no headline (between subjects). Our hypotheses were only partially supported. We found that warning messages led to small but significant increases in anxiety and negative affect. However, the warnings had negligible effects on emotional reactions to stimuli. Thus, trigger warnings may provide minimal benefit in real-world applications.  For more information email: Victoria Bridgland, [email protected]


When More Is Not Merrier: Do Shared Stressful Experiences Amplify?

SASHA NAHLEEN, GEORGIA DORNIN, and MELANIE K.T. TAKARANGI, Flinders University (Sponsored by Elizabeth Loftus)

Eyewitness memory literature has often focused on the effects of discussion among co-witnesses, discovering that such discussion can distort memory. Recent research suggests, however, that simply sharing experiences with others, even without communication, can amplify those experiences in terms of emotion (e.g., liking a pleasant chocolate more when shared with another vs not shared) and memory (e.g., better recall of words that a co-actor had responded to vs not responded to). It is plausible, therefore, that people devote more cognitive resources to co-attended experiences. We investigated whether sharing a stressful experience (Cold Pressor Task) amplifies the experience. Consistent with previous research, pain intensity was higher when the experience was shared vs unshared, with participants reporting more sensory pain qualities. Interestingly, they still remembered the pain as more intense after a delay period. This finding challenges the assumption that direct communication is necessary for memory distortion. For more information email: Sasha Nahleen, [email protected]