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Some Anxiety Can Surprisingly Increase Your Ability to Memorize Things



Anxiety is a serious problem for many people nowadays. However, a lot of people also have the ability to satisfy their anxiety in incredible ways now. In a certain way, that also weakens people.

Apparently according to people who study the history of the pharmaceutical industry, anxiety used to be big in the 1950’s and 60’s, but depression has been much more prevalent since that time, in terms of diagnosing it officially at least.

Although most people know things like this and don’t need studies to quantify it, a recent study claims that a healthy amount of regular anxiety could help any person remember things.

This sounds like the type of research that might be listed as the reason why people should have a moral obligation to be scared of authority, in some completely controlled society like China. However, it can be true and useful for free thinking people to understand too. When we get a little bit of adrenaline, it can be useful.

Published in the journal Brain Sciences, 80 students were recruited by researchers from the University of Waterloo. They were evaluated using something called the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales.

Two groups were created out of the recruits: a shallow encoding group and deep encoding group.

In the field of memory research, deep processing refers to when we hear a word and then figure out what it means. Shallow processing refers to the structure and sounds of language.

The deep processing, referred to as semantic processing, seems to be the way our brain connects with words we just perceived, to other words with similar meaning. We then remember them better.

72 words overlayed on pictures that were either neutral or negative were shown to study participants. For example, a boat and then a car accident.

In the deep encoding group, they were asked if a word represented a non-living or living object. In the shallow group, they were asked to look for the letter “a.”

The results were that the deep encoding group were better at remembering words when they saw negative images. Negative images, that induce a manageable level of anxiety, induce better memory.

This makes perfect sense: negative, shocking, things trigger our attention and anxiety comes with that.

“To some degree, there is an optimal level of anxiety that is going to benefit your memory,” said coauthor of the study Myra Fernandes, also professor in the Department of Psychology.

“But we know from other research that high levels of anxiety can cause people to reach a tipping point, which impacts their memories and performance.”

There are some forms of anxiety that people don’t find very useful at all nowadays, though. Social media anxiety is a unique type of thing where a person goes on social media, or is required to communicate with people, and the presence of all the other people on social media or in a messenger app for example might overwhelm them.

The strange psychological effects of the fact that people can see the exact time in which they read your message, and little details like that in the age of social media make our anxiety a very foreign flavor.

However, as horrible as it feels to have anxiety, perhaps it would help some people transmute that into passion and inspiration to know that there is a reason we have anxiety.

I don’t know why human emotions have to be like this, or why the world has to be like this, but our anxiety seems to be a very important emotion and instinct to a certain degree.

Image credit: Imaginationer

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