Forgetting the Future: Emotion Improves Memory for Imagined Future Events in Healthy Individuals but Not Individuals With Anxiety

N.D. Montijn, L. Gerritsen, I.M. Engelhard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Negative thoughts about future events are a central aspect of anxiety disorders. It is important to gain a deeper understanding of how these imagined events are retained over time when considering the impact of negative future thoughts on anxiety. Prior research indicates that emotional intensity fades faster for negative than positive memories in healthy individuals. This so-called fading-affect bias could extend to recall of imagined future events. Furthermore, several studies have suggested that this bias may be reversed in individuals with high levels of anxiety. In the current study, we examined whether individuals with high anxiety (n = 23), relative to individuals with low anxiety (n = 30), showed faster decay for positive than negative future-event simulations. The results show that emotion facilitated cued recall for imagined future events in the low-anxiety group but not in the high-anxiety group. In addition, individuals with high anxiety showed decreased episodic specificity during recall across all emotional conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-597
Number of pages11
JournalPsychological Science
Volume32
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Mental Recall

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