The recency effect is the psychological tendency to change your behavior due to memory of an event that has just occurred. Whether or not the event justifies a change in behavior, you give additional merit to a recent event over one that occurred further in the past. Knowing how the recency effect works, you can reduce your anxiety by actively recalling the good moments instead of the bad.
Recency Effect and Anxiety
Experimentally, psychologists have shown that if you read a list of words, there is a good chance you will remember the last one read. The same can be said with memories that lead to anxiety.
For example, imagine someone getting sick the last time they went on a rollercoaster. Because of this, they have decided they will never ride on a rollercoaster again. All of the times they went on a rollercoaster before the last one are forgotten with their previous experience fresh on their mind.
By remembering how the recency effect works, you can use it to your advantage to tackle anxiety and your fears.
For Bad Experiences
When you are anxious, it is normal to avoid situations that bring you back to the most recent poor experience you had. You could be avoiding going to parties again after having had an awkward conversation or be hesitant to give a presentation after stumbling over your words last time.
This is our fight-or-flight response at work trying to keep us out of danger. The problem is that this response gets activated even when we are not in danger, causing us to think the worst.
Instead of letting your latest experience be an unpleasant one, consider exposing yourself to the situation again to create a better memory. For example, if you want to give rollercoasters another chance, pick a different one to ride and see what happens.
You do not have to expose yourself to a situation that leads to your anxiety if you are not ready. Go at your own pace and work your way up to it.
If you are not ready to go on a rollercoaster just yet, you can hold it off until the next time an opportunity presents itself to go. You can try a smaller ride that is not as intense and see if you can handle anything more. You will then be able to use the recency effect to reflect on the positive moments to keep you ready for when you tackle something that keeps you anxious.
The recency effect occurs when you have a strong memory associated with your latest experience. This can be troubling if your latest memory brought you anxiety and made you avoid similar situations. These memories make us feel danger when it is not present. By creating more pleasant memories, you have the potential to overcome anxiety. At Alta Loma, we understand that anxiety can take over your life. Located in Georgetown, Texas, we can provide you with individualized therapy, life and coping skills education, therapeutic recreational activities, and more. Give us a call at (866) 457-3843 to learn more.