Driven, Distracted, or Both? A Performance-Based Ex-Gaussian Analysis of Individual Differences in Anxiety
Article first published online: 26 SEP 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Journal of Personality © 2011, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of Personality
Volume 79, Issue 5, pages 875–904, October 2011
How to Cite
Bresin, K., Robinson, M. D., Ode, S. and Leth-Steensen, C. (2011), Driven, Distracted, or Both? A Performance-Based Ex-Gaussian Analysis of Individual Differences in Anxiety. Journal of Personality, 79: 875–904. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00709.x
- Issue published online: 26 SEP 2011
- Article first published online: 26 SEP 2011
- Accepted manuscript online: 1 DEC 2010 06:50AM EST
Abstract Since the inception of the empirical study of personality, and even before it, individual differences in anxiety and distress have been viewed as key predictors of behavioral performance. Yet such literatures have always entertained 2 perspectives, one contending that anxious individuals are “driven” and the other contending that anxious individuals are “distracted.” The present 3 studies (total N=289) sought to reconcile such discrepant views according to an ex-Gaussian parsing of reaction time performance tendencies in basic cognitive tasks. As hypothesized, a particular pattern marked by faster responding on the preponderance of trials (in terms of the ex-Gaussian μ parameter) in combination with slower responding on other trials (in terms of the ex-Gaussian τ parameter) was predictive of higher levels of anxiety. Implications for understanding neuroticism, distress, the anxiety-performance interface, and cognitive models of personality processes are discussed.