Organization for the Advancement of
Interdisciplinary Learning
The Effect of Mood on Memory:

The mood of an individual can affect the way that they recall and create
memories. Social Psychologists have found that a neutral concept can be
remembered as a negative one if the individual created the memory while in
a negative mood.

I was with my friend one day when someone ran up from behind him and hit
him in the jaw. Despite the fact that we handled the situation respectably, he
was still very shaken up after being assaulted. I know that he was feeling
particularly angry, and self conscious after the event. We happened to listen
to a certain song that neither of us had heard before, right after the event.

Several months later I insensitively played the song in his presence. I could
immediately tell that he was quite shaken up by it. He told me all of the
sudden that something was really bothering him, knowingly I turned the song
off. Soon after he let me know that he felt much better.

This is an example of how one’s state of mind can affect the way that they
encode an event or concept into memory. My friend underwent a traumatic
experience, and was still feeling traumatized when he heard the song for the
first time. Because he linked negative emotions to the melody and subject
matter in the song, hearing the song later activated some of those same
negative emotions and feelings. A while after I turned the music off my friend
reported to me that he had never heard the song before. This tells me that he
did not consciously link the song to the negative experience. He must have
linked parts of the song, perhaps unconsciously, to the evocation of negative

The psychological study of "social cognition" also reveals that one’s mood
can affect not only the coding of certain memories but also the retrieval of
them as well. This means that if you recall a neutral memory while in either a
positive or negative mood that you are likely to remember it as either more
positive or more negative than it really was.

Thus if my friend were to recall the fight while experiencing a positive mood,
he may then remember the positive aspects of it, (like his honorable
response to the assault, or our teamwork). This might cause him to remember
the situation in a favorable, positive light in the future.