High working memory capacity facilitates distraction as an emotion regulation strategy

Abstract

Previous research suggests that distraction, which shifts attention away from negative situations or stimuli, reduces negative emotion. Although working memory capacity plays an important role in attention control, it remains unclear whether working memory capacity influences the effect of distraction as an emotion regulation strategy. In this study, we examined the relationship between working memory capacity and distraction. Seventy-six healthy undergraduate and graduate students participated in this study. Participants watched a movie clip that evoked negative emotion. Approximately half of the participants subsequently engaged in a distraction task in which they selected a category for 32 displayed images; the other half of the participants were instructed to wait 210 s as a questionnaire was prepared. The participants were asked to respond to the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule before and after watching the movie clip, as well as after completing the distraction task or waiting. A multiple regression analysis showed an interaction between the effectiveness of distraction and working memory capacity. As predicted, among participants in the distraction condition, those with higher working memory capacity expressed less negative emotion than those with lower working memory capacity. This result suggests that the effectiveness of distraction depends on individual differences in working memory capacity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    IDs of the chosen IAPS images: 1302, 1321, 2190, 2200, 2215, 2440, 2516, 5500, 5520, 5740, 5920, 5950, 7004, 7006, 7009, 7010, 7020, 7025, 7030, 7031, 7034, 7035, 7050, 7080, 7090, 7150, 7175, 7211, 7950, 8010, 8060, and 8160.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 17H02635.

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Correspondence to Ryota Kobayashi.

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Kobayashi, R., Miyatani, M. & Nakao, T. High working memory capacity facilitates distraction as an emotion regulation strategy. Curr Psychol 40, 1159–1167 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-0041-2

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Keywords

  • Distraction
  • Working memory capacity
  • Emotion regulation
  • Attention control