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Effects of valent image-based secondary tasks on verbal working memory

Morgan, Phillip; Ings, Fay; Hughes, Nia; Williams, Craig


Fay Ings

Nia Hughes


Two experiments examined if exposure to emotionally valent image-based secondary tasks introduced at different points of a free recall working memory (WM) task impair memory performance. Images from the International Affective Picture System (IAPS) varied in the degree of negative or positive valance (mild, moderate, strong) and were positioned at low, moderate and high WM load points with participants rating them based upon perceived valence. As predicted, and based on previous research and theory, the higher the degree of negative (Experiment 1) and positive (Experiment 2) valence and the higher the WM load when a secondary task was introduced, the greater the impairment to recall. Secondary task images with strong negative valance were more disruptive than negative images with lower valence at moderate and high WM load task points involving encoding and/or rehearsal of primary task words (Experiment 1). This was not the case for secondary tasks involving positive images (Experiment 2), although participant valence ratings for positive IAPS images classified as moderate and strong were in fact very similar. Implications are discussed in relation to research and theory on task interruption and attentional narrowing and literature concerning the effects of emotive stimuli on cognition.


Hughes, N. C., Ings, F. M., Morgan, P. L., Morgan, P., Williams, C., Ings, F., & Hughes, N. (2018). Effects of valent image-based secondary tasks on verbal working memory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(6), 1440-1456.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 2, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 1, 2018
Publication Date Jun 1, 2018
Journal Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
Print ISSN 1747-0218
Electronic ISSN 1747-0226
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 71
Issue 6
Pages 1440-1456
Keywords emotion, valence, working memory, secondary tasks, interruption
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology on 1st January 2018, available online:


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