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Processing efficiency theory in children: working memory as a mediator between trait anxiety and academic performance

By Matthew Owens, Jim Stevenson, Roger Norgate and Julie A. Hadwin


Abstract <br/>Working memory skills are positively associated with academic performance. In contrast, high levels of trait anxiety are linked with educational underachievement. Based on Eysenck and Calvo's (1992) processing efficiency theory (PET), the present study investigated whether associations between anxiety and educational achievement were mediated via poor working memory performance. Fifty children aged 11-12 years completed verbal (backwards digit span; tapping the phonological store/central executive) and spatial (Corsi blocks; tapping the visuospatial sketchpad/central executive) working memory tasks. Trait anxiety was measured using the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children. Academic performance was assessed using school administered tests of reasoning (Cognitive Abilities Test) and attainment (Standard Assessment Tests). The results showed that the association between trait anxiety and academic performance was significantly mediated by verbal working memory for three of the six academic performance measures (math, quantitative and non-verbal reasoning). Spatial working memory did not significantly mediate the relationship between trait anxiety and academic performance. On average verbal working memory accounted for 51% of the association between trait anxiety and academic performance, while spatial working memory only accounted for 9%. The findings indicate that PET is a useful framework to assess the impact of children's anxiety on educational achievement. <br/

Topics: BF
Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:146349
Provided by: e-Prints Soton
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