An investigation into affect-related working memory for adolescents with dyslexia
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Background Working memory and socio-emotional differences are often associated with the neurodiverse profile of dyslexia. However, it is not well understood how affect (i.e., feelings, emotion or mood) interacts with working memory processing among this population. Research suggests that affective information influences, and is influenced by, working memory, and that affective information is itself processed in working memory, with differences existing between populations. To date, research has not adequately accounted for the interaction of affect and working memory performance in this cohort. Aims: This research sought to explore the affect-related working memory profiles of adolescents with dyslexia. Sample(s): The participants for this study include adolescents with dyslexia aged 12-14 (n = 32), along with a control group matched for age and gender, but without a diagnosis or self identified learning or developmental difficulty (n = 39). Methods: This study adopted a post-positivist theoretical perspective and it was quasi experimental in design. Participants completed online, computer-based, working memory tasks and also briefly self-rated their affective experiences. Participants were required to maintain an active representation of an image over a retention period, after which they made an affective or non-affective comparison judgement. While under working memory load, during this retention interval, they were required to perform an additional working memory task (N-back) with affective or non-affective literacy stimuli. Furthermore, cognitive emotional regulation strategies employed were recorded due to their capacity to interfere with affective representations. Results: Reaction times for maintenance tasks did not differ between groups, but reaction times for less affective words had quicker accurate response times. Adolescents with dyslexia were less successful at maintaining affective information than their peers without dyslexia.Both groups displayed similar accuracy for maintaining less affectively-valent visual information, but this visual working memory task was more challenging for the dyslexia group when it required switching between different types of tasks. Catastrophising was a significant covariate for adolescents maintaining information, but it was positive re-focusing and reappraisal strategies that were reported more efficacious by the group with dyslexia. Both groups preferred the maintenance of affective information to brightness maintenance, but to a lesser extent for those with dyslexia. Conclusions: This study gives educational psychologists a greater understanding of the complex cognitive underpinnings of dyslexia (Stothard et al., 2018; Elliott & Grigorenko, 2015), and illuminates the interaction between affect and working memory for this neurodiverse population.
Affect-related working memory