The relatively small study analysed the effects of anxiety on the recollection of details in a sample group of 80 students. Results showed that while a small level anxiety was helpful in memory tests, a tipping point exists that has a severe negative impact on memory bias.
People with high anxiety have to be careful," said co-author Myra Fernandes, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo.
"To some degree, there is an optimal level of anxiety that is going to benefit your memory, but we know from other research that high levels of anxiety can cause people to reach a tipping point, which impacts their memories and performance."
The students completed a Depression Anxiety Stress Scales test to determine how they were affected by anxiety, whilst being placed in two groups that were provided with deep detail and shallow detail respectively, to identify their information retention.
Of the 80 participants involved, those who exhibited characteristics of high anxiety were more sensitive to emotions on their memory, colouring experiences and details in their retention of the information. When anxiety rose to a level of fear, the memory of information would lead the subjects to colour neutral and unimportant details with negative emotions according to the study.
"By thinking about emotional events or by thinking about negative events this might put you in a negative mindset that can bias you or change the way you perceive your current environment," said Christopher Lee from the University. “I think for the general public it is important to be aware of what biases you might bring to the table or what particular mindset you might be viewing the world in and how that might ultimately shape what we walk away seeing."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health.