Posts Tagged ‘emotional regulation’

Working Memory Capacity & Emotional Control

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Various brain fitness studies have shown that working memory capacity plays a key role in our ability to control our impulses. Now brain fitness researchers from Case Western Reserve University have published a fascinating study that ties our working memory capacity to our resilience in the face of criticism.

The CWRU brain fitness team measured working memory capacity by asking the study participants to solve math problems while remembering words. The researchers followed this with a test, and gave either negative feedback or no feedback. Negative feedback took the form of commentary on the individual’s character such as “your responses indicate that you have a tendency to be egotistical, placing your own needs ahead of the interests of others” or that “if you fail to mature emotionally or change your lifestyle, you may have difficulty maintaining these friendships and are likely to form insecure relations.”

Immediately after delivering negative or no feedback, the researchers asked the participants to rate their familiarity with a list of people and places — some real, some fictitious. By measuring the participants’ likelihood to claim knowledge of the fictitious items, the researchers were able to determine how well they were coping with negative criticism. While such “over claiming” in a normal social environment would be considered boastful and immodest, over claiming after being criticized or demeaned is a natural and effective tool for assuaging heated emotions.

The brain fitness researchers found that participants with higher levels of working memory capacity over-claimed the most and reported fewer negative emotions such as shame or distress.

Or, put another way, with working memory training we can improve the tools we naturally possess to respond resiliently in stressful situations. Yet another great reason to stick with the brain training software!