Emotion as the grammar of human memory
As time unfolds, even the simplest changes in the world, such as crossing through a doorway, can lead individuals to perceive a 'boundary' between adjacent events. Interestingly, these context shifts (e.g., spatial change) also have reliable consequences for how memories become organized later on. In the lab, we examine how the ebb and flow of experience - including changes in our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings - guide the creation of new 'episodes' in memory; that is, unique memories linked to a specific time and place. Like changes in the external world, fluctuations in our internal world, such as our emotional states, also have a powerful effect on memory. Recently, we developed a new emotion-tracking tool, known as the Emotion Compass, to show that emotion dynamics help organize and package experiences into memories of distinct and meaningful events. We believe this has important implications for the assessment and treatment of different affective disorders, including depression and PTSD.