Trait anxiety and impaired control of reflective attention in working memory

Takatoshi Hoshino, Yoshihiko Tanno
Cognition & Emotion 2016, 30 (2): 369-77
The present study investigated whether the control of reflective attention in working memory (WM) is impaired in high trait anxiety individuals. We focused on the consequences of refreshing-a simple reflective process of thinking briefly about a just-activated representation in mind-on the subsequent processing of verbal stimuli. Participants performed a selective refreshing task, in which they initially refreshed or read one word from a three-word set, and then refreshed a non-selected item from the initial phrase or read aloud a new word. High trait anxiety individuals exhibited greater latencies when refreshing a word after experiencing the refreshing of a word from the same list of semantic associates. The same pattern was observed for reading a new word after prior refreshing. These findings suggest that high trait anxiety individuals have difficulty resolving interference from active distractors when directing reflective attention towards contents in WM or processing a visually presented word.

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