The role of self-focus, task difficulty, task self-relevance, and evaluation anxiety in reaction time performance
Vrana, Scott R.
SourceMotivation and Emotion
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Self-focused attention has been found to facilitate task performance in some instances and inhibit it in others. Among chronically anxious individuals it appears to consistently hinder performance. Less is known about the impact of self-focus on the performance of normal individuals. The present study examines the role of task difficulty, task self-relevance, and presence of evaluation anxiety in the performance effects of self-focus among normal individuals. Participants performed a simple reaction time (RT) and a lexical decision task, in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively, with or without self-focus. Self-focus and evaluation anxiety resulted in faster responding in simple RT, but there was no significant effect of self-focus on performance in the more difficult lexical decision task. Participants' heart rate (HR) was monitored and indicated that orienting was associated with slower RT in both experiments, and less orienting was found during self-focus and evaluation conditions. Results are interpreted in light of several self-focus theories.