How preferential is the preferential encoding of threatening stimuli? Working memory biases in specific anxiety and the Attentional Blink.
Reinecke A., Rinck M., Becker ES.
Temporal visual working memory (VWM) biases in spider anxiety were studied with an Attentional Blink paradigm. In Experiment 1, participants viewed pictures sequentially presented at rates of 80 ms and were instructed to memorize two target pictures. We varied time between targets and valence of the second target (neutral: mushroom, positive: blossom, negative: spider). In Experiment 2, spider fearfuls and non-anxious controls (both without snake anxiety) participated. Here we tested two negative targets: disorder-related spiders and disorder-irrelevant snakes. Both positive and negative items were memorized more successfully than neutral targets. Spiders were preferentially recalled by spider fearfuls compared to non-anxious controls, implying temporal VWM biases in spider anxiety. This advantage for threat was not related to a disruption of the encoding of non-threatening targets presented before the threat item.