The development and piloting of a measure of attentional bias for test anxiety

D. Putwain, H. Langdale, K. Woods, L. Nicholson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

This poster describes the development of a protocol for measuring attentional bias in test anxious students and subsequent testing under high and low ego-threat conditions. A dot-probe measure of attentional bias was developed by creating ninety-six word pairs consisting of one neutral and one threat word. Threat words were all made relevant to test anxiety (e.g., failure, grade, etc.). Following a fixation cue, each word pair was presented for 500ms and replaced with a probe (either a left or right arrow) for 500ms in the prior position of either the neutral or threat word on an equal number of occasions. The student’s task was to press a corresponding key before a 500ms interval and the presentation of the next word pair. Eighty undergraduate participants completed a measure of trait test anxiety before being asked to complete the final two sets of the Raven’s Progressive Matrices (the most difficult) and the dot-probe task under high (performance-evaluation emphasised) or low (performance-evaluation not emphasised) ego-threat conditions. Test anxious persons showed a bias towards threat stimuli, but only in the high ego-threat condition. Low, test anxious persons showed a bias away from threat stimuli under both high and low ego-threat conditions. These findings suggest that highly test anxious persons switch from an avoidant to a vigilant mode or processing in a performance-evaluative situation. The increased worry cognitions that result from an inability to disengage from the processing of threat stimuli are associated with a debilitating effect on academic performance and achievement. Reducing attention bias, through attentional retraining, may therefore reduce performance-interfering cognitions and prove a useful intervention for highly test anxious persons.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2010
EventBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference - Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Nov 201014 Nov 2010

Conference

ConferenceBritish Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityMilton Keynes
Period12/11/1014/11/10

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    Putwain, D., Langdale, H., Woods, K., & Nicholson, L. (2010). The development and piloting of a measure of attentional bias for test anxiety. Paper presented at British Psychological Society (BPS) Education Section Conference, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.