Oral contraceptives and emotional memory
Master of Arts
DisciplinePsychology : Clinical
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Previous research has suggested that oral contraceptive (OC) use is associated with altered memory for an emotional story. The current study further examined the extent to which OCs influence emotional memory by examining the relative recall of positive and negative stimuli and whether memory would be altered for general information (gist) versus specific details of the emotional stimuli used. The study involved the assessment of memory for a visually presented narrated emotional story and an emotional visuospatial task in 135 participants (58 OC users, 40 nonusers, and 37 men). Short-term memory was examined and a surprise recall test was administered one week later to assess recall of positive and negative emotional information, as well as recall of gist versus detail for emotional and neutral information. Based on previous research, it was hypothesized that OC users and men would have enhanced memory for gist in all emotional memory conditions compared to neutral conditions and that nonusers would show the opposite effect, showing enhanced memory for detail in all emotional memory conditions compared to neutral conditions. There was no support for these hypotheses. However, overall, OC users remembered relatively more positive than negative items (or less negative than positive items) than nonusers and men in the emotional visuospatial task. OC users also recalled fewer negatively-valenced items than did nonusers. This finding held even after controlling for group differences in negative affect. The results suggest that OCs may affect the immediate recall of emotional stimuli. These findings may provide insight into the effects of OCs on emotional memory and the emotional and cognitive side effects of OCs.