Term of Award

Fall 2021

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Thresa Yancey

Committee Member 1

Lawrence Locker

Committee Member 2

Ryan Couillou


Among college students, 81.8% report experiencing at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and approximately one third report experiencing Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms (PTSS) (Overstreet, Berenz, Kendler, Dick, & Amstadter, 2017). Individuals who experience PTSS may have impaired cognitive functioning when processing trauma-relevant material (Blanchette, Rutembesa, Habimana, & Caparos, 2018). An example of this is working memory capacity (WMC), which can be disrupted by affective distractors (Vytal, Cornwell, & Letkiewicz, 2013). In addition to impaired daily functioning (American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2013) those with lower cognitive performance also respond less effectively to clinical treatment options for PTSS (Wild & Gur, 2008). Furthermore, gender differences in PTSD prevalence (APA, 2013) and WMC (Maylor et al., 2007; Voyer et al., 1995) are well established. Conversely, little research is available on how PTSS influences an individual’s working memory capacity, specifically in the areas of verbal and numeric recall. The objective of the current study was to examine the role of gender as a potential moderator between PTSS and WMC, specifically verbal and numeric recall. Participants were 254 undergraduate students at a mid-sized southeastern university, recruited for an online study. Participants completed a self-report assessment of PTSS, two WMC tasks, and provided demographic information. Results confirmed a gender difference in PTSS, where women reported higher PTSS scores. There were no significant findings regarding gender and WMC (verbal and numeric recall). Similarly, there were nonsignificant findings for the relationship between PTSS and WMC. There was also a nonsignificant interaction effect. These results suggest that PTSS and gender do not affect WMC in the areas of verbal and numeric recall. However, there were significant methodological and environmental limitations associated with the study, minimizing the likelihood of detecting significant findings. The implications of the study are discussed, and future recommendations are provided.

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Research Data and Supplementary Material