Affective Working Memory

P.I. Colleen Frank

We seek to understand how working memory functions when holding emotions in mind. Our research currently investigates in what way this ability, known as affective working memory (AWM), plays a role in higher order processing. Our current projects include:

Affective Forecasting and AWM:  Affective forecasting refers to the ability to predict our future feelings, which plays a large role in how we make choices. We examine the role AWM and cognitive working memory plays in individual differences in the accuracy of these predictions.

Rumination and AWM: Rumination involves repetitive negative thinking as a response to distressing events. While we know cognitive working memory capacity is related to the detrimental effects of rumination, we aim to test if affective working memory plays a role in this process.

AWM throughout the lifespan: While it is known that working memory, among other cognitive processes, decline throughout the lifespan, recent research suggests age-related changes in emotional processing may reveal a different trajectory. For example, Mikels et al (2005) found that older adults showed impairments on a task of non-affective maintenance (i.e., brightness maintenance) but performed comparably to younger adults on an affect maintenance task. We seek to understand these diverging trajectories using participants across all adult age groups.

Additional Readings:

Mikels, J.A. & Reuter-Lorenz, P.A. Affective working memory: An integrative psychological construct. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(4), 543 – 559.

Frank, C. C., Iordan, A. D., Ballouz, T. L., Mikels, J. A., & Reuter-Lorenz, P. A. (2020). Affective forecasting: A selective relationship with working memory for emotion. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication.