Evaluating stress as a challenge is associated with superior attentional control and motor skill performance: Testing the predictions of the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat

Samuel Vine, Paul Freeman, Lee Moore, Roy Chandra-Ramana, Mark Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat (Blascovich, 2008) suggests that individuals who evaluate a performance situation as a challenge will perform better than those who evaluate it as a threat. However, limited research has examined (a) the influence of challenge and threat evaluations on learned motor performance under pressure and (b) the attentional processes by which this effect occurs. In the present study 52 novices performed a motor task (laparoscopic surgery), for which optimal visual attentional control has been established. Participants performed a Baseline trial (when the task was novel) and were then trained to proficiency before performing under pressurized conditions designed to increase anxiety (Pressure). At Baseline, regression analyses were performed to examine the relationship between challenge/threat evaluations and the outcome variables (performance, cardiovascular response, and visual attention). At Pressure, hierarchical regression analyses (controlling for the degree of learning) were performed to examine the relationship between challenge/threat evaluations and the outcome variables. At both Baseline and Pressure tests evaluating the task as more of a challenge was associated with more effective attentional control and superior performance. In the Baseline test, evaluating the task as more of a challenge was associated with differential cardiovascular responses. Although there is some support for an attentional explanation of differential performance effects, additional analyses did not reveal mediators of the relationship between challenge/threat evaluations and motor performance. The findings have implications for the training and performance of motor skills in pressurized environments (e.g., surgery, sport, aviation)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-194
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
Volume19
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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