Mood and memory: The effects of valence and arousal on visual working memory
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Visual working memory (VWM) is essential for a wide variety of cognitive functions, and an individual’s VWM capacity has been shown to strongly predict their fluid intelligence. Thus, research into increasing the limited capacity of VWM is an active area of research. There is a strong association between how one visually attends to the environment and VWM capacity- research has found that the breadth of attention (narrow compared to broad) results in an increase in VWM capacity. The breadth of attention has been found to be affected by certain factors, such as an individual’s mood. More specifically, negative moods have been associated with a narrow focus, and positive moods with a broad focus. Mood states are known to have two dimensions: valence (hedonistic value of an emotion) and arousal (levels of energy). These two dimensions have been shown to interact to produce unique effects on different cognitive tasks. The present study explored how the focus of attention influences VWM capacity through inducing short-term moods (valence: positive, negative; arousal: high, low) to change the breadth of attention. Results indicated that positive-valence groups outperformed negative-valence groups in a VWM task. The implications of this finding for theoretical models of valence/arousal, attention and VWM are discussed.