Worry effects on visuospatial and verbal working memory


Worry consists of intrusive, repetitive negative thoughts, usually in verbal form, about a future event of uncertain outcome. Excessive occupation of working memory (WM) subsystems by worry-related representations might cause deficits in WM performance and efficiency. Attentional Control Theory (ACT) predicts that worry occupies the central executive, but not the storage components of WM (phonological loop, visuospatial sketchpad). We tested worry effects on visuospatial and verbal WM memory tasks, with and without binding, in 46 Brazilian undergradutes divided into a low-worry (LW, n=21, 11 female) and a high-worry (HW, n=25, 23 female) group. The HW group showed significantly lower accuracy in the verbal tasks and higher reaction times in the visuospatial tasks. Within the HW group, binding caused lower accuracy in the visual task and lower RTs in the verbal task. Results are discussed according to ACT, which predicts differential effects of worry on performance and efficiency accross WM modalities.

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