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Stephan Dutke, Thomas Jaitner, Timo Berse and Jonathan Barenberg

Research on effects of acute physical exercise on performance in a concurrent cognitive task has generated equivocal evidence. Processing efficiency theory predicts that concurrent physical exercise can increase resource requirements for sustaining cognitive performance even when the level of performance is unaffected. This hypothesis was tested in a dual-task experiment. Sixty young adults worked on a primary auditory attention task and a secondary interval production task while cycling on a bicycle ergometer. Physical load (cycling) and cognitive load of the primary task were manipulated. Neither physical nor cognitive load affected primary task performance, but both factors interacted on secondary task performance. Sustaining primary task performance under increased physical and/or cognitive load increased resource consumption as indicated by decreased secondary task performance. Results demonstrated that physical exercise effects on cognition might be underestimated when only single task performance is the focus.

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Nicholas P. Murray and Christopher M. Janelle

The purpose of this study was to examine the central tenets of the Processing Efficiency Theory (PET) in the context of a dual-task auto racing simulation. Participants were placed into either high or low trait-anxiety groups and required to concurrently undertake a driving task while responding to one of four target LEDs upon presentation of either a valid or an invalid cue located in the central or peripheral visual field. Eye movements and dual-task performance were recorded under baseline and competition conditions. Anxiety was induced by an instructional set delivered prior to the competition condition. Findings indicated that while there was little change in driving performance from baseline to competition, response time was reduced for the low-anxious group but increased for the high-anxious group during the competitive session. Additionally there was an increase in search rate for both groups during the competitive session, indicating a reduction in processing efficiency. Implications of this study include a more comprehensive and mechanistic account of the PET and confirm that increases in cognitive anxiety may result in a reduction of processing efficiency, with little change in performance effectiveness.

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A. Mark Williams, Joan Vickers and Sergio Rodrigues

Processing efficiency theory predicts that anxiety reduces the processing capacity of working memory and has detrimental effects on performance. When tasks place little demand on working memory, the negative effects of anxiety can be avoided by increasing effort. Although performance efficiency decreases, there is no change in performance effectiveness. When tasks impose a heavy demand on working memory, however, anxiety leads to decrements in efficiency and effectiveness. These presumptions were tested using a modified table tennis task that placed low (LWM) and high (HWM) demands on working memory. Cognitive anxiety was manipulated through a competitive ranking structure and prize money. Participants’ accuracy in hitting concentric circle targets in predetermined sequences was taken as a measure of performance effectiveness, while probe reaction time (PRT), perceived mental effort (RSME), visual search data, and arm kinematics were recorded as measures of efficiency. Anxiety had a negative effect on performance effectiveness in both LWM and HWM tasks. There was an increase in frequency of gaze and in PRT and RSME values in both tasks under high vs. low anxiety conditions, implying decrements in performance efficiency. However, participants spent more time tracking the ball in the HWM task and employed a shorter tau margin when anxious. Although anxiety impaired performance effectiveness and efficiency, decrements in efficiency were more pronounced in the HWM task than in the LWM task, providing support for processing efficiency theory.

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Mark Wilson, Mark Chattington, Dilwyn E. Marple-Horvat and Nick C. Smith

This study examined attentional processes underlying skilled motor performance in threatening situations. Twenty-four trained participants performed a simulated rally driving task under conditions designed either to direct the focus of attention toward the explicit monitoring of driving or a distracting secondary task. Performance (lap time) was compared with a “driving only” control condition. Each condition was completed under nonevaluative and evaluative instructional sets designed to manipulate anxiety. Mental effort was indexed by self-report and dual-task performance measures. The results showed little change in performance in the high-threat explicit monitoring task condition, compared with either the low-threat or the high-threat distraction conditions. Mental effort increased, however, in all high- as opposed to low-threat conditions. Performance effectiveness was therefore maintained under threat although this was at the expense of reduced processing efficiency. The results provide stronger support for the predictions of processing efficiency theory than self-focus theories of choking.

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Mark R. Wilson, Samuel J. Vine and Greg Wood

The aim of this study was to test the predictions of attentional control theory using the quiet eye period as an objective measure of attentional control. Ten basketball players took free throws in two counterbalanced experimental conditions designed to manipulate the anxiety they experienced. Point of gaze was measured using an ASL Mobile Eye tracker and fixations including the quiet eye were determined using frame-by-frame analysis. The manipulation of anxiety resulted in significant reductions in the duration of the quiet eye period and free throw success rate, thus supporting the predictions of attentional control theory. Anxiety impaired goal-directed attentional control (quiet eye period) at the expense of stimulus-driven control (more fixations of shorter duration to various targets). The findings suggest that attentional control theory may be a useful theoretical framework for examining the relationship between anxiety and performance in visuomotor sport skills.

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Emmanuel Ducrocq, Mark Wilson, Tim J. Smith and Nazanin Derakshan

& Derakshan, 2013 ), supporting one of the main predictions of attentional control theory (ACT) of anxiety ( Derakshan & Eysenck, 2009 ; Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007 ). There is now substantial evidence that anxiety-induced distractibility reduces processing efficiency, impairing goal

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Arne Nieuwenhuys, J. Rob Pijpers, Raôul R.D. Oudejans and Frank C. Bakker

The object of the current study was to investigate anxiety-induced changes in movement and gaze behavior in novices on a climbing wall. Identical traverses were situated at high and low levels on a climbing wall to manipulate anxiety. In line with earlier studies, climbing times and movement times increased under anxiety. These changes were accompanied by similar changes in total and average fixation duration and the number of fixations, which were primarily aimed at the holds used for climbing. In combination with these findings, a decrease in search rate provided evidence for a decrease in processing efficiency as anxiety increased.

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Wing Kai Lam, Jon P. Maxwell and Richard Masters

The efficacy of analogical instruction, relative to explicit instruction, for the acquisition of a complex motor skill and subsequent performance under pressure was investigated using a modified (seated) basketball shooting task. Differences in attentional resource allocation associated with analogy and explicit learning were also examined using probe reaction times (PRT). Access to task-relevant explicit (declarative) knowledge was assessed. The analogy and explicit learning groups performed equally well during learning and delayed retention tests. The explicit group experienced a drop in performance during a pressured transfer test, relative to their performance during a preceding retention test. However, the analogy group's performance was unaffected by the pressure manipulation. Results from PRTs suggested that both groups allocated equal amounts of attentional resources to the task throughout learning and test trials. Analogy learners had significantly less access to rules about the mechanics of their movements, relative to explicit learners. The results are interpreted in the context of Eysenck and Calvo's (1992) processing efficiency theory and Masters's (1992) theory of reinvestment.

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Stine Nylandsted Jensen, Andreas Ivarsson, Johan Fallby and Anne-Marie Elbe

.E. ( 2006 ). The role of effort in moderating the anxiety performance relationship: Testing the prediction of processing efficiency theory in simulated rally driving . Journal of Sport Science, 24 , 1223 – 1233 . PubMed ID: 17176526 doi:10.1080/02640410500497667 10.1080/02640410500497667 Wilson , M

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Sarah Danthony, Nicolas Mascret and François Cury

. According to the processing efficiency theory ( Eysenck & Calvo, 1992 ), the control system involved in anxiety plans and regulates the use of processing resources, and consequently, performance may be sustained or even increased due to the allocation of additional resources to the test (e