Aug 12, 2008

Memory Explanations (Part 4)

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Single-element emotional association

Another framework for interpreting a deja vu is that some aspect of the present situation triggers an affective response which then elicits a deja vu. Under this interpretation, the strange feeling accompanying a deja vuis not elicited by the unsettling contrast between implicit familiarity and explicit source memory failure. Instead, the feeling is evoked by a conditioned emotional association to a particular stimulus.

Under most circumstances, a person can identify the particular stimulus (seeing a person, hearing a name, smelling a perfume) that elicits an emotional reaction. When this implicit emotional reaction cannot be connected to its source, the person misidentifies the emotional arousal as familiarity to an unfamiliar setting and a deja vu results (Pagliaro, 1991; Siomopoulos, 1972). Thus, the implicit affective (emotional) response is immediately reinterpreted in a cognitive (familiarity) manner. To illustrate, imagine you enter a hotel you have never been in before, and a couch in the corner of the lobby is identical to one that was in your grandparents’ house. You experience a strong implicit (and positive) emotional reaction to the item of furniture without explicitly recognizing the item as the source of your affective response. Baldwin (1889) suggested that the emotional reaction must reach a certain level of intensity before it forces the inappropriate feeling of familiarity, and Siomopoulos (1972) speculated that implicit emotional associations to objects may persist long after conscious recollection has disappeared. In support of this possibility, Johnson, Kim, and Risse (1985) demonstrated that in patients with Korsakoff’s amnesia, an affective response to a stimulus could be acquired in the absence of explicit memory.

MacCurdy (1928) speculated that there are always two components of a nominal recognition response: an initial affective reaction, followed immediately by the familiarity (cf. Zajonc, 1980). Although these two stages usually follow in quick and seamless succession, and are essentially indistinguishable as separate processes, deja vu results when the initial affective stage is not succeeded by a clear second-stage memory match. Fleminger (1991) similarly suggested that the affective and cognitive channels of information processing usually work in concert but that deja vu results from “aberrant activity in the pathway responsible for affective interpretation of percepts” (p. 1418). Linn (1953) further speculated that it is not an affective response, in general, that triggers a deja vu. Rather, anxiety evoked by some aspect of the present situation disrupts the normal functioning of the reticular activating system. Thus, Linn (1953) assumed that a change in arousal precipitates a deja vu, rather than a specific affect associated with a stimulus.

These emotion-based interpretations of the deja vu experience are related to the subliminal mere exposure research, in which unfamiliar stimuli exposed at levels well below perceptual threshold (i.e., 5 ms) are later preferred over nonexposed stimuli even though participants are unable to recognize these exposed stimuli as old (Bornstein, 1992; Kunst-Wilson & Zajonc, 1980). In fact, Seamon et al. (1983) specifically related their research on subliminal mere exposure to deja vu:
In deja vu, stimuli are recognized as familiar without recognition of the basis of their familiarity. Essentially, the same outcome was observed in this study: people liked familiar stimuli without recognizing the basis for their familiarity. In this respect, the finding of target selection by affect in the absence of recognition is similar to the well-known, but poorly understood, phenomenon. (p. 188)
This parallel with subliminal mere exposure may be strained because what is typically measured in this research is preference or liking—a modest affective response, at best. What is needed is a way to experimentally evoke the type of intense affective reaction characteristic of a deja vu. Both number of exposures and test delay are directly related to preference (Bornstein, 1989), so perhaps a large number of subliminal exposures and long input-to-test delay could intensify the affective response to a level capable of eliciting a deja vu.



Trisna said...

Heloooo... (^_^) pardon me to leave an un-related comment here, it's because i need to say sorry for disappointing you with my previous post last week Farewell to COT Readers i was having a major breakdown at that time, but thanks to your motivational comment, i've re-think about leaving my best buddy, you or internet world.

So, I'm back and been missing your blog like hell or any blogosphere news. I know i must catch up and promise will get back to your blog again, do my routine as usual (^_^)... and if you're wondering the reason why i almost left, you can read it in my latest post...


Trisna's last blog post..Guess what? I'm Back!

tlr said...

That's ok neng. Glad to know that you recover already. Have fun.