Working Memory Filtering Efficiency of Threatening Words

Sofia Mattson, Joseph Kornkven & Amberly Krause, “Working Memory Filtering Efficiency of Threatening Words”
Mentor: Christine Larson, Psychology

In the current study, we examined if working memory was also impacted by threatening words, specifically investigating working memory filtering efficiency of threatening words. Using Electroencephalography (EEG), we recorded 54 undergraduates as they completed a change detection task consisting of 4 conditions: one neutral target word, two neutral target words, one neutral target word combined with one neutral distracter word, and one neutral target word combined with one threatening distracter word. We measured the contralateral delay activity (CDA), and event-related potential (ERP) that provides an index of working memory filtering efficiency for distracters. By using the CDA, we were able to calculate one’s filtering efficiency using a well-validated formula taking into account the low and high loads in relation to the distracter load. We conducted group level analyses by using repeated measures ANOVA for each dependent variable of interest. The results from our behavioral analyses showed no differences in filtering efficiency for neutral distractors compared to threatening distractors. In addition, our CDA analyses yielded null differences in filtering efficiency. Contrary to our group level analyses, moderation multiple regression results displayed an interaction between working memory capacity and attentional control. This predicted the ability to efficiently filter threatening words, but not neutral words. This same pattern was observed for individuals with average working memory capacity. However, for individuals with high working memory capacity, level of attentional control did not matter in terms of predicting filtering efficiency. Our findings add to the literature examining working memory filtering efficiency of threatening stimuli.

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  1. This is a very interesting research topic, especially as we navigate this pandemic and redefine what words are ‘threatening.’ I appreciate the depth and variety of measurements in your approach. I also enjoyed reviewing the many ways you visualized the data–something I always find helpful in comparing results in a study like this. My primary constructive feedback is that your poster and abstract both don’t include definitions of words like ‘threatening’ or ‘attention,’ making it difficult to contextualize your work for someone who isn’t in the weeds with your work. Overall, very well done! Thanks for sharing your work!

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