Term of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Name

Master of Science in Experimental Psychology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Kent Bodily

Committee Member 1

Janie Wilson

Committee Member 2

Larry Locker

Abstract

The present study examined the relationship between test anxiety, working memory, and verbal SAT performance. Test anxiety negatively affects performance because it decreases working memory space available for processing test information. However, the present study wanted to asses this theory with an experimental design to infer causation about test anxiety. Therefore, participants with high and low trait test anxiety were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. Participants in the experimental group completed the assessments under conditions of elevated stress. However, these conditions had no effect on their performance. The only observed effect was that participants with high test trait anxiety scored lower on the verbal SAT than their lower test trait anxiety counterparts. However, no difference in working memory span was observed between participants with high and low test trait anxiety. The null results between experimental and control groups were attributed to ineffective stress manipulation. That is, the participants in the experimental group did not feel any more stress than participants in the control group. Future studies will have to utilize methods directed towards increasing effect size, such as recruiting a larger sample size and using more extreme scores as cutoffs.

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