The relationship of life event stress and working memory capacity



The relationship between life stress and working memory capacity (WM) was examined in three studies. Participants with more life event stress performed more poorly on Turner and Engle's (1989) operation-word span WM task, and this impairment was more pronounced on longer operations. Life event stress also predicted intrusion errors. Finally, self-reports of intrusive and avoidant thinking predicted functional WM capacity as did the recency of negative life events. The results are interpreted using a limited capacity model of WM in which cognitive representations of stressful life events compete with task demands for attentional resources. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.