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Working memory regulates anxiety-related threat processing biases

Booth, Rob, Mackintosh, Bundy, Sharma, Dinkar (2015) Working memory regulates anxiety-related threat processing biases. In: International Society for Research on Emotions (ISRE), 8 - 10 July 2015, University of Geneva, Switzerland. (Unpublished) (KAR id:49513)


Anxious individuals tend to show biased processing of threat (e.g. Mathews & MacLeod, 2005). Executive control could be used to regulate such threat-processing (Schmeichel, Volokhov, & Demaree, 2008), and theorists have suggested that impaired executive control may be a risk factor for anxiety (Mathews & MacLeod, 2005; Ouimet, Gawronski, & Dozois, 2009). On these bases, we hypothesised that anxiety-related cognitive biases regarding threat should be more apparent when executive control is experimentally impaired by loading working memory. In Study 1, 68 undergraduates read ambiguous vignettes under high and low working memory load; later, their interpretations of these vignettes were assessed via a recognition test. Trait anxiety predicted biased interpretation of social threat vignettes under high working memory load, but not under low working memory load. In Study 2, 53 undergraduates completed a dot probe task with fear-conditioned Japanese characters serving as threat stimuli. Trait anxiety predicted attentional bias to the threat stimuli but, again, this only occurred under high working memory load. Interestingly however, actual eye movements toward the threat stimuli were associated with state rather than trait anxiety and this relationship was not moderated by working memory load, suggesting that executive control regulates biased threat-processing downstream of initial input processes such as orienting. These results suggest that cognitive loads might be a useful tool for assessing cognitive biases in future research. More importantly, since biased threat-pro cessing has been implicated in the aetiology and maintenance of anxiety, poor executive control may indeed be a risk factor for anxiety disorders.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Poster)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Dinkar Sharma
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2015 14:41 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 13:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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