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Clinical Trial
, 17 (6), 647-65

The Effects of Anxious Responding on Mental Arithmetic and Lexical Decision Task Performance

Clinical Trial

The Effects of Anxious Responding on Mental Arithmetic and Lexical Decision Task Performance

Derek R Hopko et al. J Anxiety Disord.


Anxiety-related responding and skill deficits historically are associated with performance-based problems such as mathematics anxiety, yet the relative contribution of these variables to substandard performance remains poorly understood. Utilizing a 7% carbon dioxide (CO2) gas to induce anxiety, the present study examined the impact of anxious responding on two performance tasks, mental arithmetic and lexical decision. Independent variables included math anxiety group, gender, and gas condition. Dependent variables included task performance and physiological and self-report indices of anxiety. A total of 64 university undergraduate students participated. Physiological and verbal-report measures of anxiety supported the utility of 7% carbon dioxide-enriched air as an anxiety-inducing stimulus. Behavioral disruption on performance tasks, however, did not differ as a function of carbon dioxide inhalation. Performance did differ as a function of math anxiety. High math anxious individuals generally exhibited higher error rates on mathematical tasks, particularly on tasks designed to measure advanced math skill and those requiring working memory resources. These findings are discussed with reference to processing efficiency theory, discordance among anxiety response systems, and the intricacies associated with skill measurement.

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