Changing emotional visual and auditory memories: are modality-matched dual-tasks more effective?

Gaetan Mertens*, Vera Bouwman, Jonas Fonn Asmervik, Iris M. Engelhard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Clinical and laboratory studies have demonstrated that executing a demanding dual-task while recollecting emotional memories weakens the emotional intensity and vividness of these memories. While this approach is generally effective, there is room for improvement. According to multi-component working memory theories, the effectiveness of dual-tasks may be improved by loading specifically the same sensory modality of the emotional memories. So far, however, the evidence for this idea is mixed. In the current report, this idea was tested in a pilot study (N = 36) and a pre-registered experiment (N = 60) by exposing participants to pictures of the International Affective Picture System database and to sounds of the International Affective Digital Sounds database, thus creating single-modality emotional memories. Using a within-subjects design, participants had to recollect their memories of the sounds and pictures while executing a visually-demanding task (i.e. identifying visual letters), an auditory-demanding task (i.e. identifying auditory letters), or no task. Across both studies, we only found limited evidence for modality-specific effects of dual-tasks on single-modality emotional memories. We discuss the relevance of our findings for working memory theories of memory change and therapeutic practices.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCognition and Emotion
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Working memory
  • modality
  • cognitive load
  • memories
  • EMDR therapy
  • EMDR
  • PTSD


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