In the article, “The effects of social stress on memory: If, how, and when” by McManus et al. (2020), relevant variables are stress and memory. Social pressure, such as those arising from a cold-pressor test, can be considered a controllable variable, while memory is uncontrollable. The authors point out that psychological stressors have shown significant impacts on cognition function. A study in this article is meant to determine how and when memory is strained.
In the introduction part, the authors mention behavior change, which is perceived to transform amid significant stress (McManus et al., 2020). For instance, people change how they make decisions, and acute stress can influence the ability to recall known information or learn some new one. Stress effects and how they influence behaviors depend on when someone is stressed. For instance, the authors inform that if stress happens when learning, the memory becomes enhanced, but the ability to retrieve information is impaired if it occurs before.
Methods and Design Description
The study consisted of four experiments, which implied remembering and further recognizing the 60 target words (or word-pairs for the test 2). Neutral item, associative memory, and emotional item recognition were tested. Trials 1, 2, and 4 included words, which are not associated with a particular emotion. Experiment 3 consisted of 20 non-related words, 20 related but neutral, and 20 negative-emotional ones. Tests 1 and 4 were focused on neutral item recognition and implied remembering a list of words and asking participants to recognize those words from a set of others.
Answers were collected by obtaining answers “new or “old,” which means the word had been in the list or it had not. Further, members of the experiments were asked do they know or do they remember those words. Previously, the difference between remembering and knowing the word was explained to participants to distinguish delayed memory from immediate memory. The second test was conducted analogously, but with an additional question, intended to make experiments members recall the second part of the word-pair. The third trial was similar to the previous ones but included the described above list of mixed words. The study had two sessions, with stress factors on day 1 for experiments 1, 2, and 3, and on the second day for the last test. Distraction trigger was a task to reading aloud a text for 30 seconds, during the words remembering. In addition, panelists were increasing pressure by not responding to participants at the speech task conducted before tests. The analysis was conducted through correlation results of experiments under stress factors with the reference tests outcomes.
The authors conclude that there is a significant influence of stress on participants emotional states. However, the experiments refute the generally accepted notion that all forms of stress enhance memory and affect cognition during the retrieval process. No clear evidence was found concerning the apparent relationship between social stress levels and recognition ability of any type. The authors speculate that a higher responsibility to anxiety might be needful to impact memory recollection (McManus et al., 2020). Further studies should focus on examining the relevance of individual response to some tasks and note the reactivity. People have different stress responses, especially when it comes to recollection activities, and the authors believe that further research could explain this variability.
What the Authors Conclude
The authors conclude that there is a strong influence of stress on participants emotional state. However, the experiments challenge the generally accepted notion that all forms of stress enhance memory and affect cognition during the retrieval process. No clear evidence was found concerning the relationship between social stress levels and recognition ability. The authors speculate that a higher responsibility to anxiety might be needed to impact memory recollection (McManus et al., 2020). Further studies should focus on examining the relevance of individual response to some tasks and note the reactivity. People have different stress responses, especially when it comes to recollection activities, and the authors believe that further research could explain this variability.
Psychosocial stress does not trigger memory deterioration.
McManus, E., Talmi, D., Haroon, H., & Muhlert, N. (2020). The effects of social stress on memory: If, how and when, BioXriv 1-40. Web.