Children’s true and false memories of valenced material

Pearce, Laura J (2017) Children’s true and false memories of valenced material. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (2MB)


There has been a rise in anxiety amongst typically developing children in recent years. Existing research has suggested a link between the increase of television viewing, and the increase in childhood anxiety. This thesis confirms the plausibility of this hypothesis; a meta-analysis found a small but consistent effect of viewing “scary” television on children’s internalizing responses.

Existing cognitive models of emotional processing in anxious individuals identify attention, interpretation, and memory preferences towards emotionally negative materials as potential mediators. Whilst attention and interpretation preferences have been well evidenced, the link between anxiety and negativity preferences in memory is more tenuous, particularly in typically developing children. A positive-negative asymmetry in memory is well established in adults; however, the extent to which children process and remember positive, negative and neutral stimuli differentially is relatively unexplored. The Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm has been utilised to allow analysis of memory accuracy and response bias.

There were several key findings within this thesis. In line with previous research, a preference away from negatively valenced material was found when simple word list stimuli was used. When narratives were used as a richer source of material, memory performance was greater for negatively, than positively valenced stimuli. However, when two sources differing on richness of information (visual vs narrative stimuli), and valence (positive vs negative) were presented simultaneously, the modality effect became dominant; the richer source of material was discriminated with higher accuracy, regardless of valence. When this effect was followed up, no evidence of a mood interaction within emotional memory was found. Semantic elaboration was explored as a potential mechanism behind valence effects in memory. However, no positive findings were identified. Age, gender and trait anxiety did not reliably moderate valence effects on memory.

This thesis adds to the small body of knowledge focusing on children’s emotional memory, particularly by including response bias analyses. It highlights the complex nature of emotional processing in children and some of the factors contributing to accuracy. Further research should explore in greater depth how valence effects differ for various types of stimuli, and under which circumstances these effects can be overridden. Mechanisms behind these valence effects are also yet to be unpicked.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0712 Developmental psychology Including infant psychology, child psychology, adolescence, adulthood
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2017 06:18
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 06:18

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update