Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychological Science



First Reader/Committee Chair

Koshino, Hideya


Anxiety is of importance within the field of cognition because it is often associated with adverse effects on attention, information processing, learning and memory (Eysenck, 1992, 2007). In existing literature, it has been reported that trait anxiety hinders cognitive performance (i.e., working memory capacity WMC). However, the relationship between trait anxiety and cognitive performance might be moderated by working memory capacity (WMC). For example, Owens (2014) reported that trait anxiety was negatively correlated with cognitive performance in the low WMC group and positively correlated to cognitive performance in the high WMC group. Although, past research on the working memory system has focused on the impairments that are triggered by trait anxiety, there may be an exception to these existing findings. Recently, Moriya & Sugiura (2012, 2018) reported that high trait anxiety paradoxically enhances visual-short term memory capacity (VSTMC). In this present study, we sought to identify if WMC modulates the relationship between trait anxiety and VSTM performance. Our first hypothesis stated that there would be a positive correlation between trait anxiety and VSTM capacity. Our second hypothesis stated that the correlation between trait anxiety and VSTM capacity would be modulated by WMC. In this current study, working memory, visual-short term memory and self‐report levels of trait anxiety, were evaluated. The results of the current study did not provide strong support for neither of our hypotheses. For hypothesis 1, we were not able to replicate Moriya and Sugiura’s findings; trait anxiety did not enhance VSTM performance. For hypothesis 2, VSTM performance was not influenced by the interaction term of WMC x trait anxiety; in such WMC and trait anxiety combined were unrelated to VSTM performance. Despite this work, we are still somewhat unclear whether trait anxiety enhances VSTM performance. Although, our data did not provide definitive support for enhanced VSTMC in high trait anxious individuals it did provide three unique findings. First, our results suggest that the level of WMC does in fact modulate the relationship between trait anxiety and VSTMC. Second, only the somatic component of trait anxiety was negatively correlated to VSTM performance for LWMC individuals. Third, WMC and VSTMC were significantly associated with one another. In closing, our three core findings may provide important insights towards improving future research when assessing the relationship between trait anxiety and VSTM performance.