Biased cognition is considered to play a central role in the development of anxiety disorders. Memory bias refers to an increased ability of anxious subjects to remember negative thread-related information. Memory bias relates to explicit rather than implicit memories but its nature remains poorly understood. One unresolved issue is the respective contribution of encoding and retrieval processes. In our study, subjects with either high or low trait anxiety were presented with a horror movie and an emotionally neutral movie (first session) and were asked to recollect these movies one week later (second session). There was no difference between the groups in the number of correctly remembered scenes and facts from either movie. However, when recalling the horror film, individuals with high trait anxiety reported more emotional memories in comparison to subjects with low trait anxiety. No such difference was found for the neutral film. In both groups, the number of emotional memories was significantly associated with subjective ratings of emotional feelings during recalling (second session) but not watching the horror movie (first session). This indicates that bias toward negative memories in anxious subjects might be due to an aberrant post-processing of already encoded information.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.