Remembering: Does the emotional content of a photograph affect boundary extension?

Observers falsely remember seeing beyond the bounds of a photograph (i.e., boundary extension [BE]). Do observers “zoom in” when viewing negative emotion photographs, resulting in boundary restriction (Safer, Christianson, Autry, & Österlund, 1998)? Studies have yielded inconsistent outcomes, perhaps because emotional valence was compared across photographs of completely different scenes. To control physical scene structure, two contrasting (negative vs. positive) emotional versions of the same scenes were created by dramatically changing individuals’ facial expressions; 14 such scene pairs were selected based on participants’ (n = 134) ratings of the emotional valence elicited. We attempted to enhance sensitivity to negative scene content by including participants who scored either high (n = 104) or low (n = 104) on trait rumination, which is characterized by repetitive analysis of negative mood and a narrowing of attention. They viewed either all negative or all positive emotion scenes (15 s each). These scenes were repeated at test and rated as “the same,” “closer-up,” or “farther away” than the stimulus view (on a 5-point scale). Participants in all groups exhibited BE, but neither emotional valence nor trait rumination affected performance, even though mood induction had occurred. Only physical scene context affected BE (irrespective of the emotional valence of the scenes). Results underscore the importance of controlling physical scene context in tests of the effect of emotion on spatial memory. The resilience of BE to negative-mood-inducing scenes is discussed in terms of the adaptive value of anticipating one’s surroundings while navigating through scenes in the world. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)