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Daily Variability in Working Memory is Coupled With Negative Affect: The Role of Attention and Motivation

Amer Psychological Assoc
Publication Date
  • Working Memory
  • Intraindividual Variability
  • Affect
  • Motivation
  • Attention
  • Social Sciences
  • Design


Across days, individuals experience varying levels of negative affect, control of attention, and motivation. We investigated whether this intraindividual variability was coupled with daily fluctuations in working memory (WM) performance. In 100 days, 101 younger individuals worked on a spatial N-back task and rated negative affect, control of attention, and motivation. Results showed that individuals differed in how reliably WM performance fluctuated across days, and that subjective experiences were primarily linked to performance accuracy. WM performance was lower on days with higher levels of negative affect, reduced control of attention, and reduced task-related motivation. Thus, variables that were found to predict WM in between-subjects designs showed important relationships to WM at the within-person level. In addition, there was shared predictive variance among predictors of WM. Days with increased negative affect and reduced performance were also days with reduced control of attention and reduced motivation to work on tasks. These findings are in line with proposed mechanisms linking negative affect and cognitive performance.

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