Being able to automatically prioritize memories that are relevant to future behavior is the fundamental purpose of memory. In our everyday lives, some memories are encoded and retrieved more readily, such as where we last left our car keys, the location of the nearest grocery store, and the experiences we had on our last vacation. These memory enhancements could each be viewed as domain-specific modulations of memory: functional objects, potential food sources, and enjoyable experiences. While it is possible that each of these effects is domain-specific, it is also possible that a domain-general mechanism is largely responsible for all three of these memory effects— a memory enhancement for motivationally salient information.
Motivated memory can be defined as how useful or salient information, such as those evoke reward, emotion, or motor processing, influences our ability to form memories of the past and make decisions in the future. I ask these questions using a combination of cognitive psychology, neuroimaging, and computational modeling approaches.