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Cogn Emot. 2016 Aug;30(5):925-38. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2015.1034091. Epub 2015 May 7.

Happiness increases verbal and spatial working memory capacity where sadness does not: Emotion, working memory and executive control.

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a Department of Psychology , Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY) , Flushing , NY , USA.
b Department of Psychology, The Graduate Center , City University of New York (CUNY) , New York , NY , USA.


The effects of emotion on working memory and executive control are often studied in isolation. Positive mood enhances verbal and impairs spatial working memory, whereas negative mood enhances spatial and impairs verbal working memory. Moreover, positive mood enhances executive control, whereas negative mood has little influence. We examined how emotion influences verbal and spatial working memory capacity, which requires executive control to coordinate between holding information in working memory and completing a secondary task. We predicted that positive mood would improve both verbal and spatial working memory capacity because of its influence on executive control. Positive, negative and neutral moods were induced followed by completing a verbal (Experiment 1) or spatial (Experiment 2) working memory operation span task to assess working memory capacity. Positive mood enhanced working memory capacity irrespective of the working memory domain, whereas negative mood had no influence on performance. Thus, positive mood was more successful holding information in working memory while processing task-irrelevant information, suggesting that the influence mood has on executive control supersedes the independent effects mood has on domain-specific working memory.


Emotion; Executive control; Working memory; Working memory capacity

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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