The impact of anxiety on memory for details in spider phobics

Wessel, I., Merckelbach, H. & Wessel, I., Jun-1997, In : Applied Cognitive Psychology. 11, 3, p. 223-231 9 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

According to the attentional narrowing account of emotional memory, physiological arousal results in attention being directed towards central rather than peripheral characteristics of the situation. Consequently, memory for central details would be relatively good, whereas memory for peripheral information would be impaired. The present experiment sought to test this attentional narrowing hypothesis under highly stressful conditions. Spider phobics and low-fear controls were confronted with a large live spider, eliciting high levels of emotion in the phobic group. Afterwards, subjects' memory for the experimental situation was tested. On a cued recall test, phobics displayed a poor memory for peripheral detail information relative to control subjects. There were no differences between phobics and controls with respect to central detail information. Thus, the present data provide partial support for the attentional narrowing account of emotional memory. (C) 1997 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-231
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun-1997
Externally publishedYes



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