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Memory biases in worry

Brown, Lauren


Lauren Brown


Chris Clarke


The portfolio has three parts. Part one is a systematic literature review, in which the experimental empirical literature relating to memory biases in Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is reviewed. Information processing models have suggested that anxious individuals should be characterised by a memory bias towards threat. However, other models have proposed that memory biases may not be evident, as anxious individuals avoid the elaboration of threatening material. Ascertaining whether or not a memory bias exists is fundamental to the development of theories and associated treatment of GAD and worry, its hallmark feature. To answer this question, a systematic and comprehensive search of the literature was undertaken. The results of the review highlight that there is a paucity of studies in this area, which are conflicting in their findings. The majority of the studies examined memory biases in GAD utilising explicit and implicit memory paradigms and only one previous study has examined autobiographical memory biases in GAD. A series of conceptual and methodological issues are outlined and areas for future research are discussed.Part two, the empirical paper was derived from the recommendations described in the systematic literature review. This study explores Autobiographical Memory Biases in Worry. Sixty participants with varying levels of worry completed an autobiographical memory task in response to threatening worrisome thoughts which were rated by participants for personal relevance. The findings suggested that individuals high in pathological worry do not recall more threatening autobiographical memories when presented with highly personally relevant concerns, however when prompted with a concern that is not relevant evidence of a memory bias is suggested. It was also found that depression may be a key variable in whether a general memory bias towards threat is detected in worry. No significant results were found with regards to the relationship between the level of worry and retrieval latency of memories or the coping strategies recalled. However, there are a number of methodological and conceptual issues that should be taken into account and may explain the non-significant findings. Areas for further research are highlighted.Part three comprises the appendices.


Brown, L. (2008). Memory biases in worry. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 16, 2011
Publicly Available Date Feb 22, 2023
Keywords Clinical psychology
Public URL
Additional Information Postgraduate Medical Institute, The University of Hull
Award Date Jul 1, 2008


Thesis (705 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© 2008 Brown, Lauren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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