Emotional Working Memory in Ageing and Anxiety

  • Jasper Hajonides van der Meulen University of Amsterdam


Altered processing of emotional information in ageing and anxiety can be detrimental for one’s well-being. A total of 97 participants were tested with a novel delayed match to sample task with positive and negative faces of different levels of emotional intensity. Results show less accurate recall of negative stimuli in anxiety while older adults showed a bias to rate negative faces as less negative. The relationship between emotional working memory and anxiety was not influenced by age. Anxiety and ageing both interfere with emotional working memory; interestingly, the results suggest unrelated effects on processing of negative stimuli in working memory.


1. World Health Organisation. World Health
Organisation: Burden of disease DALYs. The Global
Burden of Disease: 2004 Update (2004).

2. Alonso, J., Angermeyer, M. C. & Bernert, S. E. A.
Prevalence of mental disorders in Europe: results
from the European Study of the Epidemiology of
Mental Disorders (ESEMeD) project. Acta Psychiatr
Scand, Supplementum 109, 21–27 (2004).

3. Byers, A. L., Yaffe, K., Covinsky, K. E., Friedman,
M. B. & Bruce, M. L. High Occurrence of Mood and
Anxiety Disorders among Older Adults: The
National Comorbidity Survey Replication. 67, 489–
496 (2011).

4. Berrera, T. & Norton, P. Quality of Life Impairment
in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, and
Panic Disorder. J. Anxiety Disord. 23, 1086 – 1090

5. Brenes, G. et al. Anxiety, Depression, and Disability
Across the Lifespan. Ageing Ment. Heal. 12, 158 –
63 (2010).

6. Charles, S. T., Mather, M. & Carstensen, L. L. Aging
and emotional memory: The forgettable nature of
negative images for older adults. J. Exp. Psychol.
Gen. 132, 310–324 (2003).

7. Mogg, K., Bradley, B. P., Miles, F. & Dixon, R.
Brief report. Time course of attentional bias for
threat scenes: testing the vigilance-avoidance
hypothesis. 37–41 (2004).

8. Baddeley, A. Working memory. Science 255, 556–
559 (1992).

9. Mathews, A. & MacLeod, C. Cognitive vulnerability
to emotional disorders. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol. 1,
167–95 (2005).

10. Spielberger, C. D., Gorsuch, R. L., Lushene, R.,
Vagg, P. R. & Jacobs, G. A. Manual for the State-
Trait Anxiety Inventory. CA Consult. Psychol. Press.

11. Zhang, W. & Luck, S. J. Discrete fixed-resolution
representations in visual working memory. Nature
453, 233–5 (2008).

12. Zokaei, N., Burnett Heyes, S., Gorgoraptis, N.,
Budhdeo, S. & Husain, M. Working memory recall
precision is a more sensitive index than span. J.
Neuropsychol. 1–11 (2014).

13. Bar-Haim, Y., Lamy, D., Pergamin, L., Bakermans-
Kranenburg, M. J. & van IJzendoorn, M. H. Threatrelated
attentional bias in anxious and nonanxious
individuals: a meta-analytic study. Psychol. Bull.
133, 1–24 (2007).

14. Wilson, E. & MacLeod, C. Contrasting two accounts
of anxiety-linked attentional bias: selective attention
to varying levels of stimulus threat intensity. J.
Abnorm. Psychol. 112, 212–218 (2003).

15. Carstensen, L. L. & Mikels, J. a. At the Intersection
of Emotion and Cognition. Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci.
14, 117–121 (2005).

16. Mikels, J. a, Larkin, G. R., Reuter-Lorenz, P. a &
Cartensen, L. L. Divergent trajectories in the aging
mind: changes in working memory for affective
versus visual information with age. Psychol. Aging
20, 542–553 (2005).

17. Reed, A. E., Chan, L. & Mikels, J. a. Meta-analysis
of the age-related positivity effect: age differences in
preferences for positive over negative information.
Psychol. Aging 29, 1–15 (2014).

18. Svärd, J., Fischer, H. & Lundqvist, D. Adult agedifferences
in subjective impression of emotional
faces are reflected in emotion-related attention and
memory tasks. Front. Psychol. 5, 1–12 (2014).

Author Biography

Jasper Hajonides van der Meulen, University of Amsterdam
Faculty of Science
How to Cite
HAJONIDES VAN DER MEULEN, Jasper. Emotional Working Memory in Ageing and Anxiety. Student Undergraduate Research E-journal!, [S.l.], v. 1, nov. 2015. ISSN 2468-0443. Available at: <https://journals.open.tudelft.nl/sure/article/view/1087>. Date accessed: 20 oct. 2020.