Effects of pleasant visual stimulation on attention, working memory, and anxiety in college students

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Abstract

Different emotional reactions can be induced by the presentation of visual stimuli with affective content. Emotional stimuli are processed and linked with cognitive functions, such as attention, memory, and anxiety, and have implications in the mental health field. Previous studies have reported that positive and negative emotions tend to change cognitive processes in individuals, ultimately resulting in better and worse performance, respectively. Many studies have emphasized the crucial role of affect in directing attention to relevant stimuli, enhancing learning and memory, facilitating decision making, selecting goals, and conflict resolution. The aim of the present study was to investigate the influence of pleasant visual stimuli on memory, focused attention, and anxiety and further understand the effects of emotional induction. The study investigated the effects of presenting a pleasant visual stimulus in a 1.5 min video to a sample of 145 college students on focused attention, working memory (Personnel Selection Testing, memory subtest), and anxiety (State-Trait Anxiety Inventory). Nonsignificant differences were observed in focused attention, working memory, and anxiety state. Statistically significant differences were found in trait anxiety and the comparison between men and women with regard to memory and anxiety. The positive stimulus was not sufficient to alter cognition or emotion in our research participants. Emotion was found to not be the only factor that influences memory, and other factors appear to be important, such as prior knowledge and cognitive, social, and physiological factors, including personal history, the environment, and culture.

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