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Influence of anticipatory processing on visual and verbal working memory task performance

Mills, Adam C.
Cognitive models of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD; e.g., Clark & Wells, 1995) have implicated anticipatory processing, an anxiety-related form of repetitive negative thinking, in the maintenance of SAD symptoms. However, research has yet to examine potential mechanisms responsible for symptom maintenance. In the current study, participants high (HSA; N = 45) and low (LSA; N = 45) in social anxiety symptoms engaged in either an anticipatory processing or distraction task and then completed verbal and visual working memory tasks. HSAs who engaged in anticipatory processing demonstrated lower performance on the visual working memory task relative to the other groups, suggesting that anticipatory processing impairs visual working memory. There were no differences among any groups on verbal working memory task scores. This study advances the literature on the importance of imagery in SAD. It also underscores importance of examining anticipatory processing in the social anxiety and repetitive negative thinking literatures.