Background: Trait anxiety is a pervasive tendency to attend to and experience fears and worries to a disproportionate degree, across various situations. Decreased vulnerability to trait anxiety has been linked to having higher working memory capacity and better emotion regulation; however, the relationship between these factors has not been well-established.
Objective: This study sought to determine if participants who undergo emotional working memory training will have significantly lower trait anxiety post-training. The study also sought to determine if emotion regulation mediated the relationship between working memory training and trait anxiety.
Method: An experimental group comprising of 49 participants underwent 20 days of computerized emotional working memory training, which involved viewing a continuous stream of emotionally-charged content on a grid, and then remembering the location and color of items presented on the grid. The control group comprised of 51 participants.
Results: Participants of the experimental group had significantly lower trait anxiety compared to controls, post-training. Subsequent mediation analysis determined that working memory training capacity gains were significantly related to anxiety reduction as measured by form Y2 of the Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI-Y2). Emotion regulation, as measured by the Emotional Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), was found not to mediate between working memory capacity gains and trait anxiety reduction.
Conclusion: Working memory capacity gains and reductions in levels of trait anxiety were observed following emotional working memory training. The study may therefore be useful in informing interventions targeted at improving working memory capacity, and reducing levels of trait anxiety. Moreover, it proposes for future research to further look into the mediating role of emotion regulation via the development or utilization of more comprehensive measures of emotion regulation.
Veloso, G. C., & Ty, W. E. G. (2021). The effects of emotional working memory training on trait anxiety. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.549623