Naturally Occurring Affect Predicts Verbal and Spatial Working Memory Performance
Some research has shown that induced affective states that vary in valence have differential effects on verbal and spatial working memory performance, such that positive affect improves verbal working memory and impairs spatial working memory, while negative affect improves spatial working memory and impairs verbal working memory. However, other research using similar mood induction and working memory tasks, has supported a nonspecific influence of affect on working memory performance where fear impairs, and positive affect improves, both verbal and spatial working memory. The present study investigated whether individual differences in naturally occurring trait and state affect could predict verbal and spatial working memory performance across six working memory tasks. Valence uniquely predicted working memory performance over and above arousal and the interaction of valence and arousal which were not significant predictors. Positive affect was associated with better WM performance, while negative affect was associated with worse working memory performance. This pattern held across both verbal and spatial working memory tasks, but was observed more strongly with 2- back working memory tasks than with complex span working memory tasks. These findings suggest that, in contrast to research demonstrating differential effects of affective states on verbal and spatial working memory performance, naturally occurring affect demonstrates a modality independent effect on working memory.