Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Lizabeth Roemer

Second Advisor

Alice Carter

Third Advisor

Sarah Hayes-Skelton


Working memory capacity (WMC) can be degraded by anxiety, stress, and worry, but can also be protected by mindfulness interventions (Jha et al., 2010). The current study was the first to investigate the relations between WMC, anxiety, and mindfulness within two interventions for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) that promote mindfulness: Acceptance Based Behavioral Therapy (ABBT) and Applied Relaxation (AR). In this exploratory study, we analyzed a subset of participants from a RCT of ABBT and AR who had completed the Operation Span Task (OSPAN; n = 21). First, we found that pre- to post-treatment measures of WMC (e.g., OSPAN scores) did not significantly increase due to time or condition, nor was there a significant interaction effect, although the interaction was associated with a medium effect size: for the between-group variable of treatment condition, F(1,19) = .40, p = .54, η 2 = .02; for the repeated measure of time, F(1,19) = .14, p = .71, η 2 = .007; and for the interaction, F(1,19) = .97, p = .34, η 2 = .05. Second, we found that increases in WMC were not significantly related to reductions in anxiety; however, medium effect sizes correlating WMC to several anxiety measures (i.e., GAD CS, r = -.38, HAM A, r = -.35, and DASS Anxiety, r = -.32) are notable. Third, we found no significant relations and small effect sizes between changes in mindfulness and changes in WMC, r’s = .05 to -.19. Fourth, contrasting with findings in previous literature, a medium non-significant negative correlation, r = -.32, suggested that practicing therapy skills (as operationalized currently) might be related to less improvement in WMC. Important limitations include the small sample and absence of repeated measures of WMC over the course of treatment, which preclude analyses of temporal precedence of changes needed to determine directionality of relations. Research with larger sample sizes is needed to further explore the relations between WMC and mindfulness in anxiety treatments, as well as more thorough assessment of practice to determine its role in therapeutic change.