Anxiety can Positively or Negatively Color Memory

By Ursula Biba

At the University of Waterloo, 80 undergraduate students participated in a study to elucidate the effects of different levels of anxiety on memory recall. Groups were exposed to high and low anxiety-inducing conditions in deep and shallow encoding construction groups, respectively. Findings showed that anxiety can help individuals recall details of an experience—but only to a certain extent. Heightened levels of anxiety can morph into feelings of fear and increased emotional sensitivity, allowing emotions to negatively color neutral memories. This, in turn, can also lead to a negative mindset, bias, and altered perception. Scientists of the study, Christopher Lee and Myra Fernandez, state that findings are applicable to both educators and the general public: educators should be cognizant of how the mood of their lectures influence retention while the public should be aware of their own biases and their effects on perception.


University of Waterloo. (2018, February 26). Manageable levels of anxiety can help your memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2018 from