How Emotional Memory affects decision making

Updated: Mar 12

“Emotional memory” is shorthand for denoting the memory of experiences that evoked an emotional reaction. It is most commonly used to refer to the ability to consciously remember aspects of those experiences—Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning.


Situation 1: You are a Product Manager and you are given the responsibility to come up with a new strategy to improve your product reach. As you are taking a shower, you get this “amazing” idea that will change the way your product is perceived by your customers. Now, you get out of the shower, write your idea down, and then go on to finish your shower. The next day you look at your notes. The idea does not make you “feel” anything. What you felt in the shower seems dead to you now. You move on.

Situation 2: You know that one of your close friends takes all your help but is never there for you when you need her. You get crazy angry when that happens but then every time she reaches out to you, you forget about it and help her out.

Situation 3: Sometimes you wonder how that you remember all negative experiences and forget the positive ones. You underestimate how someone helped you and overestimate how they have hurt you. This makes you look selfish. You are perplexed.

In every one of these situations, your Emotional Memory, or lack of it, is at play.

How?

Emotional Memory is responsible for retaining the emotions of your experiences intact. In any critical situation, you rely on your emotion to decide how to act. What you will focus on, what tasks you start, what tasks you complete, how you evaluate a situation, how you respond to others — every single of these decisions depends on your ability to remember emotional experiences.


But Emotional Memory does not work this way for everyone. Individuals show differences in Emotional Memory which affects their capacity to complete tasks. For example, people with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) have poor Emotional Memory thereby affecting their ability to focus and complete tasks.


Poor Emotional Memory and Self-Confidence

Because you cannot retain and retrieve your Emotional Memory reliably, you start relying on conscious thoughts (self-talk) to get things done. You have to be consistently aware of what you are thinking. You have to keep analyzing information to make decisions because the emotions that guide your action are not available to you or cannot be depended upon. You find yourself having no inspiration for things that are important to you and you feel conflicted about it. You find yourself losing interest in things quickly and the list of things that you started but have not completed keeps growing. You end up feeling less confident about yourself because the number of situations where you cannot rely on yourself seems to be inexplicably huge.


What can be done?

While medication is an option, there are other ways in which you can improve your Emotional Memory.

  1. Visualize — By vividly imagining your goals, you can induce emotions to your tasks.

  2. Journal — By writings your tasks and ideas in detail, you can reflect on different aspects that help you retain the emotions behind them.

  3. Talk it out — This is the easiest! By using the power of your voice, you can talk out different aspects of your ideas that generate emotions in you. When you talk, your brain uses additional memory in the form of auditory memory, making it easier for you to remember and retrieve emotional experiences.

P.S — If you find it weird to talk out your ideas to others or even to yourself — try Konvos. We build curated experiences to unlock the power of your voice to improve your Emotional Memory and Emotional Intelligence.




References —

  1. Relationship between Emotions and Self-Talk

  2. Retrieval of Emotional Memories

  3. Working Memory training improves Emotional Regulation

  4. When emotions matter

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