Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Educational Psychology


Signmund Tobias

Committee Members

John Antrobus

Alan Gross

Subject Categories

Educational Psychology


The purpose of this research was to examine the effect of anxiety on rehearsal in short-term memory. It was hypothesized that anxiety arousal would result in attentional alternation between task-relevant rehearsal and task-irrelevant personalized thinking. Because atten­tional focus becomes increasingly unitary at high levels of arousal, it was anticipated that the alternation resulting from anxiety would interfere with rehearsal of task-relevant information in short-term memory.

One hundred-fifty subjects were randomly assigned to a high-stress (testlike) or low-stress (neutral) condition. They were shown to-be- recalled strings consisting of seven consonants of low associability. Following a 1.5 second exposure to a given string, subjects were shown a series of addition problems which functioned as an interpolated task to control rehearsal. On two trials, the to-be-recalled string formed a meaningful seven-letter word. Anxiety arousal during the experiment was measured by the State Worrv/Emotionality scale. Trait anxiety was measured by the Test Anxiety Scale one week prior to the experiment. The expected relationship between anxiety arousal and recall was found for the low-stress condition but was not significant for the high-stress condition. Individuals who reported high worry/emotionality arousal recalled fewer letters than those who reported low arousal. Subjects in the high-stress condition recalled fewer letters than those in the low-stress condition. Trait anxiety did not predict letter recall but did predict performance on the interpolated task. The results are seen as generally supportive of the attentional alternation hypothesis and are discussed in terms of their theoret­ical and practical relevance.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.