Melissa Võ, Arthur Jacobs, Lars Kuchinke, Markus Hofmann, Markus Conrad, Annekathrin Schacht and Florian Hutzler

The coupling of emotion and cognition in the eye: Introducing the pupil old/new effect.


The study presented here investigated the effects of emotional valence on the memory for words by assessing both memory performance and pupillary responses during a recognition memory task. Participants had to make speeded judgments on whether a word presented in the test phase of the experiment had already been presented ('old') or not ('new'). An emotion-induced recognition bias was observed: Words with emotional content not only produced a higher amount of hits, but also elicited more false alarms than neutral words. Further, we found a distinct pupil old/new effect characterized as an elevated pupillary response to hits as opposed to correct rejections. Interestingly, this pupil old/new effect was clearly diminished for emotional words. We therefore argue that the pupil old/new effect is not only able to mirror memory retrieval processes, but also reflects modulation by an emotion-induced recognition bias.