Anxiety about the world around some people can color entire experiences.

But that negative bias about one’s surroundings may also help remember those very experiences, according to a new study published in the journal Brain Sciences.

The manageable levels of high anxiety helped with recall, report the scientists from the University of Waterloo, based on memory trials involving undergraduate students.

“In the framework of our research question, emotional events from the past can taint our perception of the present, making current circumstances more memorable,” they write. “When we constrain our memory search to information or events encountered within a negative context, or learnt using a negative mode of processing, some memory benefit held by those thoughts may be conferred unto incidental stimuli within our current environment.”

The 80 undergrads spanned the ages 16 to 26, and were divided into two groups, those with low anxiety levels and those with high anxiety levels, they report.

The participants were shown two sets of pictures, one with negative connotations, like the aftermath of a car crash, and others with neutral overtones, like a docked ship.

The students were then presented with dozens of words. When some were repeated, they were asked whether they had seen the words before, according to the study.

The more anxious participants thus showed a heightened sensitivity to the pictures – and also better recall on the words that came in context with the images.

Christopher Lee, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Waterloo, and one of the authors, said in a school statement that people should be made aware of the filter through which they process their surroundings.

“By thinking about emotional events or by thinking about negative events this might put you in a negative mindset that can bias you or change the way you perceive your current environment,” said Lee. “So, I think for the general public it is important to be aware of what biases you might bring to the table or what particular mindset you might be viewing the world in and how that might ultimately shape what we walk away seeing.”