Working memory in social anxiety disorder: better manipulation of emotional versus neutral material in working memory

Cognition and Emotion 31 (8):1733-1740 (2017)
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Individuals with social anxiety disorder engage in post-event processing, a form of perseverative thinking. Given that deficits in working memory might underlie perseverative thinking, we examined working memory in SAD with a particular focus on the effects of stimulus valence. SAD and healthy control participants either maintained or reversed in working memory the order of four emotional or four neutral pictures, and we examined sorting costs, which reflect the extent to which performance deteriorated on the backward trials compared to the forward trials. Emotionality of stimuli affected performance of the two groups differently. Whereas control participants exhibited higher sorting costs for emotional stimuli compared to neutral stimuli, SAD participants exhibited the opposite pattern. Greater attention to emotional stimuli in SAD might facilitate the processing of emotional stimuli in working memory.



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