Anxiety and Performance: A Visual Search Examination of the Processing Efficiency Theory

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 East Carolina University
  • 2 University of Florida
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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.

N.P. Murray is with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Science, East Carolina Univ., 383 Ward, Greenville, NC 27858; C.M. Janelle is with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32601.

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