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Memory for individual negative items, such as words and pictures, is consistently superior to memory for individual neutral items; however, recent research has found that relational memory for pairs of negative items is not enhanced relative to their neutral counterparts. The current experiments investigated the boundary conditions for this lack of negative associative memory enhancement and repeatedly found that memory for negative word pairs was not better than memory for neutral word pairs. In fact, cued recall of negative stimuli exceeded that of neutral stimuli only when word pairs were encoded holistically, as in the case of adjective-noun pairs. Findings are discussed in terms of the important dissociation between item and associative memory, and the implications of this distinction for theories of emotional memory in general. Finally, a discrete-emotion approach to emotional memory is introduced as one fruitful avenue for exploration.