Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness. Research into these disorders has shown that up to 1 in 4 adults will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and that up to 1 in 10 people will have an anxiety disorder each year.
A new study by the University of Waterloo suggests that anxiety can help memory. If it goes too high or descends into fear, it could lead to the coloring of memories, where people begin to associate otherwise neutral elements of an experience to the negative context.
The investigation of 80 college understudies found that reasonable levels of anxiety really supported individuals in having the capacity to review the subtle elements of occasions.
Co-author Myra Fernandes, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo, said, “People with high anxiety have to be careful. To some degree, there is an optimal level of anxiety that is going to benefit your memory, but we know from other research that high levels of anxiety can cause people to reach a tipping point, which impacts their memories and performance.”
During the study, scientists asked participants to complete the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to a deep encoding instruction group, while the other half were randomly assigned to a shallow encoding group.
Scientists found that people high in anxiety showed an increased affectability to the impacts of emotional context on their memory, with neutral data getting to be polluted, or colored by the emotion with which it was related amid encoding.
Christopher Lee, a psychology Ph. D. candidate at Waterloo, said, “By thinking about emotional events or by thinking about negative events, this might put you in a negative mindset that can bias you or change the way you perceive your current environment.”
“So, I think for the general public, it is important to be aware of what biases you might bring to the table or what particular mindset you might be viewing the world in and how that might ultimately shape what we walk away seeing.”
“For educators, it is important to be mindful that there could be individual factors that influence the retention of the material they are teaching and that lightening the mood when teaching could be beneficial.”
The study, which was undertaken by Fernandes and Lee, was recently published in in the Journal of Brain Sciences.