Anger supports rapid action (e.g., to preempt or counter an opponent). Consistent with this, anger appears to simplify and streamline many cognitive processes, including comprehension and decision making. In our work, we investigate its influence on memory and judgment, both in forensically relevant contexts and more broadly. We have found anger to increase false identification rates and false memory in eyewitnesses, as well as decrease the quality of an angry lineup creator's filler selections. Ongoing research is examining anger's impact on more basic cognitive processing of situations.
In a threatening situation, it is highly beneficial to anticipate the actions of threatening agents (for example, in order to intercept or evade them). We have found that memory for dynamic scenes is systematically distorted further into the future when they are interpreted as involving threat. Our work highlights the profound impact that emotional content can have on perception and memory for unfolding or recent events.
Our work has involved investigating the role of threat in directing attention to elements of complex scenes. Whereas previous research has shown prioritization of threatening elements of the scene for perceptual detection, we are interested in prioritization of other forms of survival-relevant information. Other research in our lab has focued on how traditional weapon focus effects may apply to a broader range of threatening situations that do not involve traditional weapons and in which dangerous circumstances are expected.
Suspense can be characterized as an unpleasant state associated with with fear, hope, and uncertainty. The desire to extricate oneself from this state may lead to an increased need for knowledge, which in turn may lower the criterion for accepting new information as true. Suspenseful people may thus become more vulnerable to misinformation effects. On the other hand, it is possible that the heightened apprehension associated with the emotional state of suspense will increase vigilance, leading to more conservative criteria for accepting new information. Our work has supported the latter prediction, demonstrating a lowered risk of suggestibility when people feel suspense. Further, this effect is sensitive to whether the topic of misinformation is directly relevant to the experience of suspense.