Bringing to mind the best and worst: The role of emotion in memory and imagination
Abstract: Memory is a record of our personal history. This record contains the narrative of our lives, grounding us in who we are. Extensive data demonstrates that memories are tuned towards the emotionally significant, optimizing our survival and well being. But the relationship between emotion and memory is complex and multifaceted. In the first part of my talk, I will discuss my work on the dynamic relationship between emotion and memory, with a particular focus on how emotion colors the way we remember the temporal unfolding of events. In the second part of my talk, I will explore the intricate relationship between emotion, memory, and imagination. As important as our memories are, humans spend the majority of their time imagining and fantasizing about experiences they've never actually had. The pieces of such imaginings are drawn from memory, but the product is something new. In doing so, we use our mind’s eye to paint a picture of the best and worst possible outcomes that we might face, aiding in our ability to plan and predict what is to come. Hence, in both parts of my talk, I will delve into how humans harness emotional experiences—from memory and from imagination—in adaptive (and sometimes maladaptive) ways. My talk will touch on cognitive and neural perspectives.