Whether trait anxiety is associated with a general impairment of cognitive control is a matter of debate. This study investigated whether and how experimentally manipulated working memory (WM) load modulates the relation between trait anxiety and cognitive control. This question was investigated using a dual-task design in combination with eventrelated potentials. Participants were required to remember either one (low WM load) or six letters (high WM load) while performing a flanker task. Our results showed that a high WM load disrupted participants’ ability to overcome distractor interference and this effect was exacerbated for the high trait-anxious (HTA) group. This exacerbation was reflected by larger interference effects (i.e., incongruent minus congruent) on reaction times (RTs) and N2 amplitudes for the HTA group than for the low trait-anxious group under high WM load. The two groups, however, did not differ in their ability to inhibit task-irrelevant distractors under low WM load, as indicated by both RTs and N2 amplitudes. These findings underscore the significance of WM-related cognitive demand in contributing to the presence (or absence) of a general cognitive control deficit in trait anxiety. Furthermore, our findings show that when limited WM resources are depleted by high WM load, HTA individuals exhibit less efficient recruitments of cognitive control required for the inhibition of distractors, therefore resulting in a greater degree of response conflict.
Qi, Senqing; Zeng, Qinghong; Luo, Yangmei; Duan, Haijun; Ding, Cody; Hu, Weiping; and Li, Hong, "Impact of Working Memory Load on Cognitive Control in Trait Anxiety: An ERP Study" (2014). Education Sciences and Professional Programs Faculty Works. 8.