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Description: Emotion is assumed to change how people process information by modulating attentional focus. Two recent studies (Spachtholz, Kuhbandner, & Pekrun, 2014; Xie & Zhang, 2016) reported that negative emotion decreased the imprecision with which information was stored in visual working memory. Here we attempted and failed to replicate these findings across 6 studies conducted in Switzerland, Germany, and Portugal. Emotion was induced by presenting emotional images (negative, neutral, and positive) before each trial of a visual working memory task (5 experiments) or the images were combined with emotional music during a 3-min induction phase (between-subjects design; 1 experiment) occurring prior to the visual working memory task. In the visual working memory task, participants stored (emotionally-neutral) continuously-varying colored dots or oriented triangles. At test, the color or orientation of a probed item was reproduced. Although participants in all experiments reported modulation in their emotional state commensurate with the valence of the stimuli, five experiments showed substantial evidence against changes in the imprecision (and number) of items stored in visual working memory under the negative (and positive) emotional states in comparison to the neutral one; whereas one condition, in one study, showed reduced imprecision under both negative and positive emotion compared to neutral. These results challenge the view that emotion modulates visual working memory quality and quantity.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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