Individual differences in trait anxiety and goal-commitment predict updating efficiency on the reading span task

Elizabeth J. Edwards*, Mark S. Edwards, Michael Lyvers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


According to attentional control theory (ACT; Eysenck et al. in Emotion 7(2):336–353, 2007) anxious individuals recruit motivation on demanding tasks, which helps prevent performance shortfalls. We used a quasi-experimental design to examine the relationship between trait anxiety (operationalised using questionnaire scores), situational stress (manipulated using ego threat instructions) and motivation (indexed using a self-report goal-commitment scale) in predicting effectiveness (accuracy) and efficiency (accuracy divided by RT) on the reading span task. After controlling for depression, the variables were not related to effectiveness; however there was a significant trait anxiety × goal-commitment interaction on reading span efficiency. Higher trait anxiety predicted better efficiency at higher goal-commitment, and poorer efficiency at lower goal-commitment, and these relationships were independent of situational stress. Results are interpreted in terms of ACT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-945
Number of pages10
JournalMotivation and Emotion
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


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