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All in its proper time: monitoring the emergence of a memory bias for novel, arousing-negative words in individuals with high and low trait anxiety.

By Annuschka Salima Eden, Pienie Zwitserlood, Katharina Keuper, Markus Junghöfer, Inga Laeger, Peter Zwanzger and Christian Dobel


The well-established memory bias for arousing-negative stimuli seems to be enhanced in high trait-anxious persons and persons suffering from anxiety disorders. We monitored the emergence and development of such a bias during and after learning, in high and low trait anxious participants. A word-learning paradigm was applied, consisting of spoken pseudowords paired either with arousing-negative or neutral pictures. Learning performance during training evidenced a short-lived advantage for arousing-negative associated words, which was not present at the end of training. Cued recall and valence ratings revealed a memory bias for pseudowords that had been paired with arousing-negative pictures, immediately after learning and two weeks later. This held even for items that were not explicitly remembered. High anxious individuals evidenced a stronger memory bias in the cued-recall test, and their ratings were also more negative overall compared to low anxious persons. Both effects were evident, even when explicit recall was controlled for. Regarding the memory bias in anxiety prone persons, explicit memory seems to play a more crucial role than implicit memory. The study stresses the need for several time points of bias measurement during the course of learning and retrieval, as well as the employment of different measures for learning success

Topics: Medicine, R, Science, Q
Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098339
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