Associations between evaluation anxiety, cognitive interference and performance on working memory tasks



According to Cognitive Interference Theory, evaluation anxiety leads to increased negative off-task self-dialogue which then results in diminished cognitive performance. Given that negative off-task self-dialogue is primarily verbal, the phonological loop and central executive components of the working memory system should be most affected by evaluation anxiety. Eighty-eight participants were randomly assigned to receive evaluation anxiety inducing instructions or supportive instructions prior to administration of three tests (Digit Span, Visual Memory Span, and StroopColour-Word) that measured the phonological loop, visuospatial sketchpad, and central executive components of working memory. Measures of evaluation anxiety and negative off-task self-dialogue were obtained during and after testing. Results showed that participants receiving anxiety inducing instructions reported significantly more evaluation anxiety and off-task self-dialogue. They also had significantly lower performance on the Digit Span Test and the StroopColour-Word Test. Negative off-task self-dialogue also mediated the relationship between evaluation anxiety and performance on the Digit Span Test. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.