Exploring the interactions between affective auditory distractions and working memory

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2024

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In our daily lives, the ability to focus on tasks while filtering out distractions is crucial. Attention and working memory play pivotal roles in this process, but distractions, particularly emotional stimuli, can still interfere. Working memory is susceptible to impairments when dealing with emotional distractions, which can have implications for emotional regulation and overall well-being. Negative emotional distractions, in particular, have been shown to interfere with cognitive task performance. However, the impact of affective distractions lacks a consensus in terms of how they interact with working memory performance. Further, the range of acoustic stimuli used as affective distractors is limited, often confined to brief, task-irrelevant sounds, which may not always be applicable to real-world scenarios. In the current study, participants were asked to reproduce the colors of three images presented to them in order of their confidence in their ability to successfully reproduce the correct color. Additionally, the research incorporated prolonged exposure to distraction with the presentation of emotional auditory distractions in the form of news reports. Results showed that the presence of auditory distractions increased participant reports of being off-task. Further, memory errors were higher in the distraction conditions when compared to the no distraction conditions during the last response, when participant confidence was low. The findings suggest that there is a relationship between participant confidence and the interference of emotional auditory distractions. This study underscores the need to consider emotional distractions, particularly auditory stimuli, in real-world scenarios to better comprehend their effects on working memory and cognitive functioning.

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