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Faculty Mentor

Tyler M. Miller

Abstract

When college students begin college they experience pressure from multiple sources. For example, they experience pressure from their parents to succeed, from their professors, and pressure from themselves to do well in classes. This pressure could lead to high anxiety and possibly even poor performance in classes. Prior research that has examined the impact of anxiety on performance includes the Yerkes-Dodson law and the Processing Efficiency Theory. Both argue that anxiety increases the performance to a point, but then performance decreases again with too much pressure. The Processing Efficiency Theory also includes motivation. This motivation increases the drive to succeed and perform at a higher level. In the current study I manipulated the pressure participants felt as they completed a memory test to examine pressure as an influence on memory performance. Furthermore, I also analyzed how trait-anxiety interacts with pressure (as measured by the State Trait Anxiety Inventory). College students (n = 67) were separated into either a no pressure condition or a pressure condition and completed a memory test. Results showed a trend for participants with low trait-anxiety to have increased memory performance in the pressure condition. These results follow the Processing Efficiency Theory and the Yerkes-Dodson law. In other words, perhaps participants had better memory in the pressure condition because they were motivated to do well. Future research identifying the optimal amount of pressure for the best performance is suggested.

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