How (and why) emotion enhances the subjective sense of recollection

Elizabeth A. Phelps, Tali Sharot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of evidence suggests emotion boosts memory accuracy to an extent but affects the subjective sense of recollection even more. The result is vivid memories for emotional events that are held with confidence but that may be surprisingly inaccurate in their details. We examine the neural circuitry underlying emotion's impact on memory and the subjective sense of recollection to provide insight into this puzzling phenomenon. This research suggests that for emotional stimuli the quality and strength of memory for a few details may mediate judgments of recollection, whereas for neutral stimuli the quantity of contextual details may be more important. Finally, we speculate that the enhanced subjective sense of recollection with emotion, in the absence of absolute veridicality, may have evolved to enable fast and unambiguous decision making in emotional situations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-152
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


  • Amygdala
  • Emotion
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Recollection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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