Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Psychology


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Ken Robinson


It is commonly accepted that valence has influences on long-term memory, but there are diverse results concerning methodology and the effect size. The literature is mixed with some authors reporting evidence consistent with negativity bias, others reporting evidence consistent with positivity bias and still others reporting no effect of valence on certain types of memory. This review argues that while there are divergent results for recall rate studies, reaction time studies and emotional Stroop task studies showed predominant negativity bias in long term memory. Moreover, many of the studies reviewed were solely concerned with group effects, rather than individual differences. It was concluded that there is value in exploring individual differences and developing standardized evaluation techniques in the area of memory and emotion. The present study extends Jung's association method study on emotion. He measured his clients' reaction times for negative and positive words associated with previous memories, and reported that negative words took longer time to respond to. Baumeister's negativity bias theory was based on interference effects on cognitive processes, which included longer reaction time to negative events from long term memory. In contrast, Rozin and Royzman argued that long term memory is positively valenced based on their review on memory studies. The present study investigated the effect of valence on long term memory by measuring individual and group reaction times to positive and negative words. The group results indicate that there was a significant although small negativity bias in long term memory, consistent with Jung and Baumeister. However the idiographic results show that there was no effect of valence for 20 of the participants, there was a negativity bias effect for 14 participants and positivity bias for one participant. The results of the present study emphasized the importance of individual differences on reaction time to valenced long term memory.