Effects of the Headache State on Objective and Perceived Performance


Address all correspondence to Dr. Christine Hovanitz, Department of Psychology, ML # 376, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio 45221.


The reduced ability to perform tasks is generally reported by those who experience headache. However, in an experimental study, participants reporting onset of headache chose more ambitious tasks than participants remaining headache free. The purpose of this study was to reevaluate the objective ambition of subjects with headache onset, and to determine if perceptions of expended effort and performance accuracy contributed to this seemingly maladaptive behavior. These effects were evaluated while controlling for headache proneness.

A nonclinical sample was used. Measures of ambition, performance accuracy, perceived effort, and perceived accuracy for a headache-developing group (n = 25) and a sex-matched, headache-free group (n = 25) were compared during a series of mental arithmetic problems.

Ambition among participants after headache onset was significantly higher than for the control group. There was little indication that inaccurate perceptions of effort or accuracy contributed to the observed heightened ambition. However, perceived accuracy was poorer for the headache-developing group after onset of a headache state. Headache proneness did not eliminate the significance of any relationship between objective or subjective performance and headache state.