It may seem like common sense: Recalling a negative memory can put you in a bad mood, and thinking about a happy memory can put you in a good mood. But there's actually scientific evidence to back that up. Studies even show that this effect is taking place whether or not we're aware of it.
So what's the big deal? It turns out that memory recall can be used to regulate mood in people who are experiencing depression, because thinking about positive memories causes the brain to release dopamine. So when someone tells you to cheer up, it may be a simple matter of thinking happy thoughts [source: Gillihan].
Not surprisingly, memories of previous experiences influence how you respond emotionally to situations. If you once nearly drowned, you might experience fear around water. If a previous love had a wandering eye, you might feel jealousy when a current flame looks at another person. What's more, the intensity of the previous experience affects the intensity of the current emotion. For example, a soldier who has had extensive combat experience or traumatic combat experience will likely have more intense anxiety later on.
Preconceived ideas also affect your emotions. Anticipation and your expectations, which are driven by memories of previous events, affect the intensity of an emotional reaction [source: Frijda].
Want to know more about the brain and your emotions? The links below will give your brain some new information to process.
More Great Links
- Banich, Marie T., and Rebecca J. Compton. "Cognitive Neuroscience, Third Edition." Cengage Learning, 2011.
- BBC. "A Job for the Hippocampus." (July 24, 2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/memory/understand/hippocampus.shtml
- Brodal, Per. "The Central Nervous System: Structure and Function, Second Edition." Oxford University Press, 2010.
- Dozier, Rush W., Jr. "Why We Hate: Understanding, Curbing, and Eliminating Hate in Ourselves and Our World." Mcgraw-Hill Professional, 2003.
- Fiori, Nicole. "Cognitive Neuroscience." Armand Colin Publisher, 2006.
- Frijda, Nico H. "The Emotions." Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1986.
- Gillihan, Seth J. at al. "Memories affect mood: Evidence from covert experimental assignment to positive, neutral, and negative memory recall." Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, July 20, 2006. (July 13, 2011). http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~mfarah/Emotion-Memoriesaffectmood.pdf
- Gorman, Phil. "Motivation and Emotion." Psychology Press, 2004.
- Gutman, Sharon A. "Quick Reference Neuroscience for Rehabilitation Professionals." SLACK Incorporated, 2008.
- Kalat, James W. "Biological Psychology, Tenth Edition." Cengage Learning, 2009.
- Lewis, Michael at al. "Handbook of Emotions, Third Edition." The Guilford Press, 2008.
- Licinio, Julio, and Ma-Li Wong. "Biology of Depression: From Novel Insights to Theraputic Strategies, Volume I." Wiley-VCH, 2005.
- Michael-Titus et al. "The Nervous System." Elsevier Health Sciences, 2007.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Brain Damage Disrupts Emotions and Mood." National Institutes of Health, May 5, 1992. (July 13, 2011). http://www.ninds.nih.gov/news_and_events/news_articles/pressrelease_braindamage_050592.htm
- National Institutes of Mental Health. "Imaging Identifies Brain Regions and Chemicals Underlying Mood Disorders; May Lead to Better Treatments." National Institutes of Health, May 6, 2008. (July 20, 2011). http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2008/imaging-identifies-brain-regions-and-chemicals-underlying-mood-disorders-may-lead-to-better-treatments.shtml
- Nazario, Brunilda, MD. "Serotonin: 9 Questions and Answers." WebMD. (July 21, 2011). http://www.webmd.com/depression/recognizing-depression-symptoms/serotonin
- Nicholas, Lionel. "Introduction to Psychology, Second Edition." UCT Press, 2008.
- Thompson, Jason. "Emotionally Dumb: An Overview of Alexithymia." Soul Books, 2009.
- Zillmer, Eric et al. "Principles of Neuropsychology." Cengage Learning, 2008.
Dopamine might be the most misunderstood neurochemical in the brain. HowStuffWorks looks at what dopamine actually does and doesn't do.