Cognitive tunneling: use of visual information under stress

Percept Mot Skills. 1983 Feb;56(1):191-8. doi: 10.2466/pms.1983.56.1.191.


References to "tunnel vision" under stress are considered to describe a process of attentional, rather than visual, narrowing. The hypothesis of Easterbrook that the range of cue utilization is reduced under stress was tested with a primary task located in the visual periphery. High school volunteers performed a visual discrimination task with choice reaction time (RT) as the dependent variable. A 2 X 3 order of presentation by practice design, with repeated measures on the last factor, was employed. Two levels of stress, high and low, were operationalized by the subject's performing in the presence of an evaluative audience or alone. Pulse rate was employed as a manipulation check on arousal. The results partially supported the hypothesis that a peripherally visual primary task could be attended to under stress without decrement in performance.

MeSH terms

  • Arousal
  • Attention
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pulse
  • Reaction Time
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Visual Perception* / physiology