An investigation into Anxiety, Cognition and Performance in Children and Young People
Porter, Dana Lee
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To allow me to publish my research.
Anxiety has been shown to be associated with lowered academic attainment (Hembree, 1988) yet it remains, to some extent, unsupported in our country’s classrooms. Much of the existing literature is correlation in nature and as such does not provide a rich knowledge base from which an Educational Psychologist (EP) can plan for intervention and support. The lack of empirical research also means that understanding how anxiety may disrupt certain academic tasks is unknown. Frick, Silverthorn and Evans (1994) theorized that children with anxiety are not generally recognized due to the lack of externalized behaviour problems which may account for the lack of support and research aimed at supporting these pupils. This thesis investigated the effects of anxiety on three central executive tasks. A task switching paradigm was used in order to test the prediction made by Attentional Control Theory (ACT). The shifting, inhibition and updating functions were investigated. The results indicated that in certain conditions anxiety leads to a decrease in performance however in other conditions performance was improved. This paper suggests that, in line with much previous research, anxiety has both a positive and negative mediating role on performance. Many of the predictions that are made by ACT were supported by the data. The updating function failed to meet statistical significance though it was suggested that task selection was at least partially responsible. It is argued that task difficulty, goal setting, focus and motivation are the main catalysts for improved performance. Limitations of the study and future directions for the research is discussed before the findings are framed in terms of their implications for the development of theory and practice for Educational Psychologist.
DEdPsy in Educational, Child & Community Psychology