A Working Memory To Keep Your Wits Around You When Stressed

by Tanya Thomas on May 13 2011 7:40 AM

 A Working Memory To Keep Your Wits Around You When Stressed
A new study suggests that the key to anticipate how well someone will control his or her emotions, stay calm during stress, or even accept critical feedback stoically, might lie in what psychologists call "hot" and "cold" psychology.
"People differ with regard to how well they can control their emotions, and one factor that predicts it is non-emotional in nature - it is a 'cold' cognitive construct," said Heath A. Demaree, professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University, referring to Working Memory Capacity.

Working memory capacity, or WMC, is the "ability to process a stream of information while engaging in a separate task or while being distracted" he said.

People with a high level of working memory capacity were best at using a coping mechanism to make themselves feel better and control negative emotions after being harshly criticized.

In the study, Demaree and Brandon J. Schmeichel, a professor of psychology at Texas A and M University, test connections between high WMC and the control of emotions.

This research follows a 2008 study - Working Memory Capacity and the Self-Regulation of Emotional Expression and Experience. Researchers found that though emotions can be controlled, people with higher WMC were better at managing their emotions when directed to do so.

"The 2010 study employs the same ideas. But it additionally showed that people with high WMC control their emotions more naturally - when not directed to do so as well," Demaree said.

The study has been published in Emotion.