The authors of this study were Sarra Hayes, Colette Hirsche, and Andrew Mathews. It was published in the August 2008 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. These researchers administered a questionnaire to measure the degree one worries to several students at staff at King’s College London in the United Kingdom. Among these participants, 32 people were selected for the study. This group was divided between those who worried often (high worriers) and those who rarely fretted (low worriers). The groups were then given a key pressing task in which they had to hit any key as soon as they heard a beep.
These participants were also asked to fill out a thought rating scale to find out what kinds of positive thoughts they were having during the task. Finally, the groups were also given a filler task to reduce any carryover effect a previous trial of the key pressing task may have had. The researchers concluded that those who worried the most were more distracted from even the simplest task of hitting a random key when one hears a beep. Positive thoughts, however, did not seem to be as distracting. In the end, the researchers found that working memory is negatively affected by worrying.
This study struggled with a major weakness of an exceptionally small sample size, but it remains valuable because it surveyed a nonclinical sample. The participants represented a sample of people who worried, but did not demonstrate levels of anxiety that disturbed their everyday functioning. While I do not believe any of the participants in this study were harmed or endangered, I would not have wanted to participate in this research. I do not enjoy tedious tasks and I am quick to identify the role of filler activities in a study.
The key pressing task seems relatively boring and I prefer research that has a more direct and positive impact in the lives of others. Since I think that the findings do contribute to our understanding of how humans are able to balance worrying with their other cognitive tasks, I do see the value in this study. I would be interested to hear how the researchers might propose preventing worrying or helping those chronic worriers utilize their memories more effectively. Works Cited Hayes, Sarra, Hirsch, Colette, and Mathews, Andrew. “Restriction of Working Memory Capacity During Worry. ” Journal of Abnormal Psychology August 2008: 712-717.