• Emotional faces, visuo-spatial working memory and anxiety

      Maratos, Frances A.; Simione, Luca; Raffone, Antonino; University of Derby; Italian National Research Council; “Sapienza” University of Rome (ECronicon, 2020-03-30)
      Recent research has demonstrated competition for limited cognitive resources, via emotional prioritization, occurs not only during attentional capture, but also extends to visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM). However, to what extent VSWM biases are influenced by individual differences such as anxiety has received limited attention. Here, we investigated this using a novel change detection paradigm with memory arrays containing 3, 4 or 5 emotional faces (angry, happy and neutral) and participants (n=41), preselected to be high or low trait anxious. The task of participants was to detect if a probe face, presented in the location of one of the original memory array faces, was the ‘same’ or ‘different’. On ‘no change’ trials results revealed that high anxious participants demonstrated poorer performance for larger set sizes than low anxious participants per se. Additionally, high anxious participants demonstrated a threat bias, whereas low anxious participants trended toward emotion superiority. On ‘change’ trials, change detection altered as a function of expression change; change detection was typically greatest when either the memory or probe face was angry. Results reveal VSWM capacity is modulated by trait anxiety and stimulus threat value, as well as highlight the importance of actively investigating (or controlling for) individual differences.