The memory enhancement effect of emotion is absent in conceptual implicit memory.
Memory for emotional stimuli is superior to memory for neutral stimuli. This study investigated whether this memory advantage is present in implicit memory. Memory was tested with a test of explicit memory (associate cued recall) and a test of conceptual implicit memory (free association) identical in all respects apart from the retrieval instructions. After studying emotional and neutral paired associates, participants saw the first member of the pair, the cue; in the test of explicit memory participants were instructed to recall the associate; in the test of implicit memory participants were instructed to generate the first word coming to mind associated to the word. Depth of study processing dissociated performance in the tests, confirming that the free-association test was not contaminated by an intentional retrieval strategy. Emotional pairs were better recalled than neutral pairs in the test of explicit memory but not in the equivalent test of implicit memory. The absence of an emotion effect in implicit memory implies that emotional material does not have a privileged global mnemonic status; intentional retrieval is necessary for observing the emotion-related memory advantage.