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September 2021

Attention and memory in anxiety and depression

Author(s): Rinck, M.

Journal/Book: Psychol Rundsch. 2000; 51: Rohnsweg 25, D-37085 Gottingen, Germany. Hogrefe & Huber Publishers. 67-74.

Abstract: Anxiety and depression are among the most frequent mental disorders. Regarding their origin and maintenance, biases of cognitive processes are supposed to play an important role. Assumptions about these cognitive biases are included in psychological models of anxiety as well as in models and therapies of depression. This paper gives a critical overview of empirical research regarding the two most important cognitive processes, i.e., attention and memory. Furthermore, the existing theories on cognitive processes in anxiety and depression, most prominently the theory proposed by Williams, Watts, MacLeod and Mathews (1988, 1997). Are evaluated in light of the empiricial results. These results reveal that anxiety patients do indeed show the predicted attentional bias towards threatening stimuli. The bias, however, manifests itself solely as increased distraction by these stimuli, not as faster detection of them. Regarding an attentional bias in depressed patients, completely mixed results were found. These patients show the predicted memory bias for relevant stimuli in explicit memory tests, but not in implicit ones. With anxiety patients, however, a memory bias was found in implicit tests, whereas explicit tests yielded mixed results. To date, none of the existing theories is able to explain this complex pattern of results. Potential explanations are discussed and suggestions for future research are made.

Note: Article Becker ES, Tech Univ Dresden, Klin Psychol & Psychotherapie, D-01062 Dresden, GERMANY

Keyword(s): anxiety; depression; attention; memory; MOOD-CONGRUENT MEMORY; EXPLICIT MEMORY; CLINICAL DEPRESSION; PANIC DISORDER; CONSTRUCT ACCESSIBILITY; EMOTIONAL INFORMATION; BIAS; IMPLICIT; DISSOCIATION; TASK


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