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Gokce, Ahu; Zinchenko, Artyom; Annac, Efsun; Conci, Markus ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3403-0318 and Geyer, Thomas (2021): Affective Modulation of Working Memory Maintenance. The Role of Positive and Negative Emotions. In: Advances in Cognitive Psychology, Vol. 17, No. 2: pp. 107-116 [PDF, 388kB]


The present study investigated the impact of task-irrelevant emotional images on the retention of information in spatial working memory (WM). Two experiments employed a delayed matching to-sample task where participants had to maintain the locations of four briefly presented squares. After a short retention interval, a probe item appeared and participants were required to indicate whether the probe position matched one of the previously occupied square positions. During the retention interval, task-irrelevant negative, positive, or neutral emotional pictures were presented. The results revealed a dissociation between negative and positive affect on the participants’ ability to hold spatial locations in WM. While negative affective pictures reduced WM capacity, positive pictures increased WM capacity relative to the neutral images. Moreover, the specific valence and arousal of a given emotional picture was also related to WM performance: While higher valence enhanced WM capacity, higher levels of arousal in turn reduced WM capacity. Together, our findings suggest that emotions up- or down-regulate attention to items in WM and thus modulate the short-term storage of visual information in memory.

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