Written by Laura VISU-PETRA, Silvia CIAIRANO, Mircea MICLEA on . Posted in Special issue: Anxiety: Current Perspectives, Guest Editor: Mircea Miclea, Volume X, Nr. 4


The present paper aims to provide an overview of current research investigating the impact of childhood anxiety upon working memory paralleling the mounting evidence documenting this relationship in the adult literature. We review mostly behavioral evidence, but we also consider neurobiological data and theories where available. From a processing efficiency perspective developed by M. W. Eysenk and M. G. Calvo (1992), the documented detrimental effect of childhood anxiety on cognitive performance, in general, and academic performance, in particular, is thought to be mediated by the impact of anxiety-biased processes upon working memory processes, at both the level of storage and manipulation of information. This effect is proven to be present even in emotionally neutral tasks, therefore not only in those that manipulate the emotional arousal and valence of the stimuli. Still, even if we keep the focus on available research at the behavioral level, the data regarding the extent of the working memory transitory impairment in anxious children, as well as its exact target, that is the verbal, visual-spatial or executive component of working memory, remain controversial. We attempt an in-depth task-analysis indicating that outputs of current studies are not directly comparable. We propose further lines of investigation, considering specific developmental aspects; finally, some emergent implications for educational and clinical practice are delineated.

KEYWORDS: childhood anxiety, working memory, processing efficiency theory, academic performance