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Disgust-Related Memory Bias in Children and Adults
Evolutionary Psychology  (IF1.506),  Pub Date : 2021-04-27, DOI: 10.1177/1474704921996585
Anne Schienle, Jonas Potthoff, Elena Schönthaler, Carina Schlintl

Studies with adults found a memory bias for disgust, such that memory for disgusting stimuli was enhanced compared to neutral and frightening stimuli. We investigated whether this bias is more pronounced in females and whether it is already present in children. Moreover, we analyzed whether the visual exploration of disgust stimuli during encoding is associated with memory retrieval. In a first recognition experiment with intentional learning, 50 adults (mean age; M = 23 years) and 52 children (M = 11 years) were presented with disgusting, frightening, and neutral pictures. Both children and adults showed a better recognition performance for disgusting images compared to the other image categories. Males and females did not differ in their memory performance. In a second free recall experiment with eye-tracking, 50 adults (M = 22 years) viewed images from the categories disgust, fear, and neutral. Disgusting and neutral images were matched for color, complexity, brightness, and contrast. The participants, who were not instructed to remember the stimuli, showed a disgust memory bias as well as shorter fixation durations and longer scan paths for disgusting images compared to neutral images. This “hyperscanning pattern” correlated with the number of correctly recalled disgust images. In conclusion, we found a disgust-related memory bias in both children and adults regardless of sex and independently of the memorization method used (recognition/free recall; intentional/incidental).