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J Anxiety Disord. 1998 Jul-Aug;12(4):343-55.

Mathematics anxiety and working memory: support for the existence of a deficient inhibition mechanism.

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  • 1Cleveland State University, USA.


A current theory of anxiety effects in cognition claims that anxiety disrupts normal processing within the working memory system. We examined this theory in the context of a reading task, for participants who were high or low in assessed mathematics anxiety. The task was designed to measure the ability to inhibit attention to distracting information and the effects of this ability on explicit memory performance. The results suggested that math-anxious individuals have a deficient inhibition mechanism whereby working memory resources are consumed by task-irrelevant distracters. A consequence of this deficiency was that explicit memory performance was poorer for high-anxious individuals. Based on these results, the recommendation is made that Eysenck and Calvo's (1992) processing efficiency theory be integrated with Connelly, Hasher, and Zack's (1991) inhibition theory to portray more comprehensively the relation between anxiety and performance.

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