The effect of acute stress on memory depends on word valence

T. Smeets*, M. Jelicic, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The present study investigated the effect of acute stress on working memory and memory for neutral, emotionally negative, and emotionally positive words in healthy undergraduates. Participants (N=60) were exposed to either the Trier Social Stress Test (stress group) or a non-stressful task (control group). Analyses of salivary cortisol samples taken throughout the study showed elevated glucocorticoid levels after the experimental manipulation in the stress group, but not in the control group. Recall performance was impaired in the stress group, but only so for neutral words. No differences between the stress and control group were found on working memory measures. For the stress group, digit span forward and digit span total scores were associated with correct recall of neutral words. All in all, this study lends further support to the notion that the memory effects of exposure to acute stress depend on the valence of the memory material.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-37
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006


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