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Hum Factors. 2007 Aug;49(4):745-58.

Stress appraisals and training performance on a complex laboratory task.

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  • 1Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio 45435, USA.



We investigated whether training performance on a complex laboratory task differs for trainees whose stress appraisals denote challenge or threat.


Past research outside a training context found better performance on tasks when stress appraisals denoted challenge (in which perceived situational demands are commensurate with perceived resources) as opposed to threat (in which perceived coping resources fall short of the demands of the stressor).


College students performed Space Fortress during 80 3-min practice trials, 20 tests, and posttests (retention, transfer, secondary task interference). Stress appraisals were measured with a two-item scale (Experiments 1-3) or an eight-item scale (Experiment 3) with (Study 1) or without (Experiments 2 and 3) brief hands-on experience.


In all experiments, training improved performance and challenged trainees outperformed threatened trainees throughout training as well as on some baseline and posttraining tests.


These studies are the first to document that stress appraisals predict training performance. They suggest that little information about a task is needed for appraisals to account for a significant amount of variance (11%) in training performance. Investigating the dynamic interplay of stress appraisals and training will increase the understanding of stress appraisals and of training.


Stress appraisals may improve training if used as a screening tool and/or by implementing interventions aimed at changing appraisals from threat to challenge.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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