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The effect of increasing state anxiety on autobiographical memory specificity and future thinking

journal contribution
posted on 01.12.2019, 00:00 authored by David HallfordDavid Hallford, David MellorDavid Mellor, L Bafit, Bethany Devenish, T Bogeski, David AustinDavid Austin, R Kaplan
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Impairments in the specificity of autobiographical memory (AM) and future thinking are associated with a range of affective and psychopathological states, however, whether these deficits also occur in the context of state anxiety is not well known. We examined the effects of increasing state anxiety on the specificity of AM and future thoughts, as well as whether changes in rumination and executive functioning mediate any observed effects. METHODS: Sixty-four participants (M age = 29.1, SD = 11.5) were randomized to either an anxiety or neutral mood induction and completed pre and post-measures of the constructs of interest. RESULTS: There were significant decreases observed in AM specificity in the anxiety induction group, relative to the neutral group. No changes were observed for future thinking specificity. Rumination was increased as a result of the anxiety induction, but only a non-significant trend was observed with respect to its association with changes in AM and future thinking specificity. Verbal fluency and working memory were not affected by the induction. LIMITATIONS: Physiological measures of anxiety were not used. State anxiety, although increased, was not high in severity. Future research might use a clinical sample to assess generalizability of these findings. CONCLUSIONS: Although preliminary, these findings provide first evidence of the causal impact of an anxiety induction on the ability to retrieve specific AM.



Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry



Article number



1 - 9




Amsterdam, The Netherlands





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2019, Elsevier Ltd.