Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Getting excited helps with performance anxiety more than trying to calm down, study finds

23.12.2013
Simple statements about excitement could have big effects, research shows

People who tell themselves to get excited rather than trying to relax can improve their performance during anxiety-inducing activities such as public speaking and math tests, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.

"Anxiety is incredibly pervasive. People have a very strong intuition that trying to calm down is the best way to cope with their anxiety, but that can be very difficult and ineffective," said study author Alison Wood Brooks, PhD, of Harvard Business School. "When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well."

Several experiments conducted at Harvard University with college students and members of the local community showed that simple statements about excitement could improve performance during activities that triggered anxiety. The study was published online in APA's Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In one experiment, 140 participants (63 men and 77 women) were told to prepare a persuasive public speech on why they would be good work partners. To increase anxiety, a researcher videotaped the speeches and said they would be judged by a committee. Before delivering the speech, participants were instructed to say "I am excited" or "I am calm." The subjects who said they were excited gave longer speeches and were more persuasive, competent and relaxed than those who said they were calm, according to ratings by independent evaluators.

"The way we talk about our feelings has a strong influence on how we actually feel," said Brooks, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

In another experiment, 188 participants (80 men and 108 women), were given difficult math problems after they read "try to get excited" or "try to remain calm." A control group didn't read any statement. Participants in the excited group scored 8 percent higher on average than the calm group and the control group, and they reported feeling more confident about their math skills after the test.

In a trial involving karaoke, 113 participants (54 men and 59 women) were randomly assigned to say that they were anxious, excited, calm, angry or sad before singing a popular rock song on a video game console. A control group didn't make any statement. All of the participants monitored their heart rates using a pulse meter strapped onto a finger to measure their anxiety.

Participants who said they were excited scored an average of 80 percent on the song based on their pitch, rhythm and volume as measured by the video game's rating system. Those who said they were calm, angry or sad scored an average of 69 percent, compared to 53 percent for those who said they were anxious. Participants who said they were excited also reported feeling more excited and confident in their singing ability.

Since both anxiety and excitement are emotional states characterized by high arousal, it may be easier to view anxiety as excitement rather than trying to calm down to combat performance anxiety, Brooks said.

"When you feel anxious, you're ruminating too much and focusing on potential threats," she said. "In those circumstances, people should try to focus on the potential opportunities. It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don't believe it at first, saying 'I'm excited' out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement."

Article: "Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement," Alison Wood Brooks, PhD, Harvard Business School; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, online.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xge-a0035325.pdf

Alison Wood Brooks can be contacted by email at awbrooks@hbs.edu or 617-495-6670.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

APA Public Affairs | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.apa.org

Further reports about: Business School Business Vision Experimental Psychology

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Amputees can learn to control a robotic arm with their minds
28.11.2017 | University of Chicago Medical Center

nachricht The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change
17.11.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technique could make captured carbon more valuable

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

A chip for environmental and health monitoring

15.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>