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Title: The effects of anxiety on cognitive performance
Author: Miguel, Paula
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 4479
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis describes five studies that systematically examined the effects of anxiety on cognitive performance, based on high trait versus low trait anxious university students. It directly tests the main assumptions of attentional control theory (ACT, Eysenck et al., 2007). The first two studies investigated the effects of anxiety on two central executive functions (inhibition and shifting) both jointly and separately. Task switching and an auditory distractor were used to investigate respectively the shifting and inhibition functions. Different switching tasks were used in both studies. The increased response time and switch cost in both studies suggested that anxiety impaired the shifting function. In addition, anxiety impaired response time but not accuracy (efficiency over effectiveness). These findings are as predicted by ACT. The next study investigated separately the effects of anxiety on three central executive functions (inhibition, shifting and updating). A switching task and a computerised version of the Hayling sentence completion test were used to test respectively the shifting and the inhibition functions. A letter memory task was used to study the updating function. In accordance with ACT, the results revealed that anxiety negatively affected the shifting function. However the inhibition and updating functions were not significantly affected. The fourth study investigated whether anxiety impairs the ability to co-ordinate the performance of two concurrent tasks. A memory and a reasoning task were used singly and concurrently. Results revealed that anxiety negatively affected the reasoning task response time when it was performed concurrently with the memory task, as predicted by ACT. The last study investigated effects of motivation on performance of high-anxious versus low-anxious individuals. A modified version of the digit symbol test (WAIS-III) was used. Results revealed that the high-anxious felt more motivated when the goal difficulty was high than the low-anxious. These five studies contribute to further understanding of the effects of anxiety on cognitive performance. Finally, the thesis outlines directions for future research.
Supervisor: Eysenck, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available