Keep calm and carry on: A little anxiety may boost your memory

There might be a flip side to having anxiety after all. Turns out, manageable levels of anxiety actually aids people in being able to recall the details of events.
When anxiety levels got too high, it led to the colouring of memories where people begin to associate otherwise neutral elements of an experience to the negative context.(Shutterstock)
When anxiety levels got too high, it led to the colouring of memories where people begin to associate otherwise neutral elements of an experience to the negative context.(Shutterstock)
Updated on Feb 26, 2018 03:18 PM IST
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Indo Asian News Service, Toronto | By HT Correspondent

Do you tend to be worried or anxious over petty issues? Relax, a little anxiety may help you in remembering things, researchers have claimed. The study, published in the journal Journal Brain Sciences, showed that manageable levels of anxiety actually aided people in being able to recall the details of events.

Conversely, when anxiety levels got too high or descended into fear, it led to the colouring of memories where people begin to associate otherwise neutral elements of an experience to the negative context, the researchers noted. “People with high anxiety have to be careful,” said Myra Fernandes, Professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “To some degree, there is an optimal level of anxiety that is going to benefit your memory, but we know from other researches that high levels of anxiety can cause people to reach a tipping point, which impacts their memories and performance,” Fernandes added.

For the study, the researchers assessed 80 undergraduate students from the University of Waterloo, including 64 females. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to a deep encoding instruction group while the other half were randomly assigned to a shallow encoding group. The results showed that individuals with high anxiety levels showed a heightened sensitivity to the influences of emotional context on their memory, with neutral information becoming tainted, or coloured by the emotion with which it was associated during encoding.

“By thinking about emotional events or by thinking about negative events this might put you in a negative mindset that can bias you or change the way you perceive your current environment,” explained Christopher Lee, researcher at the varsity.

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