The working memory (WM) system refers to the structures and processes supporting the encoding, maintenance, manipulation, and retrieval of information to be used for goal-directed behavior. Proactive interference (PI) is often experienced when information to be processed shares physical properties with information that is no longer relevant. The working memory system may then process such information less efficiently (i.e., slower processing time) and less accurately, and control processes involved in interference resolution become triggered in order to maintain performance. The current study investigated the effects of emotional content on interference resolution by using a working memory updating paradigm. Specifically, an n-back task with lure trials was employed to systematically introduce interference effects. Low arousing neutral images and highly arousing negative images were used to study interference resolution under two emotional conditions. The effects of emotional content on interference resolution were further studied when the emotional content was task-relevant (Experiment 1) or task-irrelevant (Experiment 2). Given the assumption that highly arousing emotional stimuli captures attention automatically, it was predicted that while emotional content would facilitate interference resolution when it was task-relevant, it would hinder interference resolution when it was task-irrelevant. Results showed reliable interference effects in both Experiment 1 and 2. Two types of interference effects were analyzed; namely, the n + 1 interference effect (mismatch vs. n + 1 lure) and the n – 1 interference effect (mismatch vs. n – 1 lure). While Experiment 1 showed an interaction between interference effects and emotional valence, Experiment 2 failed to show a significant relationship. Specifically, Experiment 1 revealed that while negative valence hindered interference resolution efficiency (i.e., slowed response times) when interference was produced by no-longer relevant (n + 1 lures) information, it facilitated interference resolution when interference was produced by not-yet relevant (n – 1 lures) information. Overall, when the affective information is task-relevant (Experiment 1), it appears to have both facilitating and hindering effects on proactive interference resolution depending on the stage of processing of such representations in working memory. However, when the affective information is not task-relevant (Experiment 2), it does not appear to have significant effects on proactive interference resolution.

LLU Discipline

Clinical Psychology




School of Behavioral Health

First Advisor

Lee, Grace J.

Second Advisor

Cagigas, Xavier E.

Third Advisor

Haerich, Paul E.

Fourth Advisor

Morrell, Holly E. R.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Memory; Short-term memory; Emotions

Subject - Local

Working Memory; Proactive Interference



Page Count


Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives