Changing negative autobiographical memories in the lab: A comparison of three eye-movement tasks


There is strong evidence that executing eye-movement (EM) tasks that load working memory (WM) while thinking of an emotional memory reduces the emotionality and vividness of this memory. According to WM theory, EM tasks that load WM more should be more effective to devalue emotional memories. In this study, we compared three EM tasks: dot tracking, letter identification, and a combination of dot tracking and letter identification. First, participants completed a reaction time (RT) task to assess the WM load of the three EM tasks relative to a control task (viewing a black screen). Then, participants were asked to think of a negative autobiographical memory while executing one of these EM tasks and asked to recall another negative memory while executing the control task. Before and after each task, participants rated emotionality and vividness of the memory. All EM tasks slowed down RTs relative to the control task, and the letter identification task induced the largest RTs. Reductions of vividness relative to the control task, however, were comparable across the EM tasks, and there were no reliable reductions of emotionality. We discuss these findings in light of the WM theory and alternative theories for the effects of dual-task interventions.






Gaëtan Mertens
Angelos-Miltiadis Krypotos
Arlaine van Logtestijn
Elze Landkroon
Suzanne C. van Veen
Iris M. Engelhard

Original Work Citation

Mertens, G., Krypotos, A.-M., van Logtestijn, A., Landkroon, E.,  van Veen, S. C.,  & Engelhard, I. M. (2018). Changing negative autobiographical memories in the lab: a comparison of three eye-movement tasks. Memory. doi:10.1080/09658211.2018.1507041



“Changing negative autobiographical memories in the lab: A comparison of three eye-movement tasks,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 24, 2022,

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