Author(s): Derakshan N, Eysenck MW
There have been many attempts to account theoretically for the effects of anxiety on cognitive performance. This article focuses on two theories based on insights from cognitive psychology. The more recent is the attentional control theory (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007), which developed from the earlier processing efficiency theory (Eysenck & Calvo, 1992). Both theories assume there is a fundamental distinction between performance effectiveness (quality of performance) and processing efficiency (the relationship between performance effectiveness and use of processing resources), and that anxiety impairs processing efficiency more than performance effectiveness. Both theories also assume that anxiety impairs the efficiency of the central executive component of the working memory system. In addition, attentional control theory assumes that anxiety impairs the efficiency of two types of attentional control: (1) negative attentional control (involved in inhibiting attention to task-irrelevant stimuli); and (2) positive attentional control (involved in flexibly switching attention between and within tasks to maximize performance). Recent (including unpublished) research relevant to theoretical predictions from attentional control theory is discussed. In addition, future directions for theory and research in the area of anxiety and performance are presented.