A large body of work reveals that people remember emotionally arousing information better than neutral information. However, previous research reveals contradictory effects of emotional events on memory for neutral events that precede or follow them: in some studies emotionally arousing items impair memory for immediately preceding or following items and in others arousing items enhance memory for preceding items. By demonstrating both emotion-induced enhancement and impairment, Experiments 1 and 2 clarified the conditions under which these effects are likely to occur. The results suggest that emotion-induced enhancement is most likely to occur for neutral items that: (1) precede (and so are poised to predict the onset of) emotionally arousing items, (2) have high attentional weights at encoding, and (3) are tested after a delay period of a week rather than within the same experiment session. In contrast, emotion-induced impairment is most likely to occur for neutral items near the onset of emotional arousal that are overshadowed by highly activated competing items during encoding.
Knight, M., & Mather, M. (2009). Reconciling findings of emotion-induced memory enhancement and impairment of preceding items. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 9(6), 763–781. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0017281