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Greenstein, Michael; Franklin, Nancy; Martins, Mariana; Sewack, Christine; Meier, Markus A. (2016): When anticipation beats accuracy: Threat alters memory for dynamic scenes. In: Memory & Cognition, Vol. 44, No. 4: pp. 633-649
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Abstract

Threat frequently leads to the prioritization of survival-relevant processes. Much of the work examining threat-related processing advantages has focused on the detection of static threats or long-term memory for details. In the present study, we examined immediate memory for dynamic threatening situations. We presented participants with visually neutral, dynamic stimuli using a representational momentum (RM) paradigm, and manipulated threat conceptually. Although the participants in both the threatening and nonthreatening conditions produced classic RM effects, RM was stronger for scenarios involving threat (Exps. 1 and 2). Experiments 2 and 3 showed that this effect does not generalize to the nonthreatening objects within a threatening scene, and that it does not extend to arousing happy situations. Although the increased RM effect for threatening objects by definition reflects reduced accuracy, we argue that this reduced accuracy may be offset by a superior ability to predict, and thereby evade, a moving threat.