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J Exp Psychol Gen. 2001 Jun;130(2):224-37.

The relationships among working memory, math anxiety, and performance.

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Department of Psychology, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio 44115, USA.


Individuals with high math anxiety demonstrated smaller working memory spans, especially when assessed with a computation-based span task. This reduced working memory capacity led to a pronounced increase in reaction time and errors when mental addition was performed concurrently with a memory load task. The effects of the reduction also generalized to a working memory-intensive transformation task. Overall, the results demonstrated that an individual difference variable, math anxiety, affects on-line performance in math-related tasks and that this effect is a transitory disruption of working memory. The authors consider a possible mechanism underlying this effect--disruption of central executive processes--and suggest that individual difference variables like math anxiety deserve greater empirical attention, especially on assessments of working memory capacity and functioning.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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