The Correlation Between Arousal and Performance

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I had never read about the correlation between arousal and performance (i.e. the inverted-U relationship). It is one of those ideas that after learning about I felt like I should have known it all along. In my own life I have noticed the affects of this principle time and time again. A certain level of arousal enhances my performance on college papers. It is when the deadline is close and I have a lot to accomplish that arousal becomes negative. Then the symptoms of somatic arousal caused by my prediction that I will complete the paper act in an accumulative manner with the cognitive arousal created by my worrying that I will not turn in the assignment on time, and in turn decrease performance. I had already studied the mechanisms of stress, coping, and health in both of the biopsychology classes, and I knew that stressed lowered the strength of the immune system. I just didn’t know exactly how it worked. Deckers (2005) explains that the correlation between cumulative stressors and immune system performance follow a J-curve, meaning that immune system functioning increases with mild stress, but decreases significantly with persistent, long-term stress. This has been my experience as well. I have terrible allergies; in fact I suspect that they might be a psychosomatic representation of long-term, unmediated stress. There have been years when I allergies do not bother me as badly and there are years where I have to take medication or I can’t go outside. I have always thought that this was due to seasonal, perennial pollen levels in the air. I had never considered that the times of intense allergic reactions coincided with other life events that caused significant stress. Additionally, I learned quite a bit about musical complexity, incongruity, and arousal. Again, the theories mentioned in the text directly correspond with my experience. I like songs that are not too complex or too simple. Also, the songs that are my favorite were more complex when I first heard them. I like songs that have transcendent themes. For instance, there are songs that I listened to as a teenager that have new meaning for me today. I don’t like rap because it is so complex. The melody and the words come in torrents and I have to listen to the song several times before I can understand what the artist is trying to say. It is too complex. I have just recently started listening to piano instrumentals. This is a new personal schema for me and it has taken some time to incorporate into my musical tastes.   

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Deckers, L. (2005). Motivation: Biological, psychological, and environmental, Second Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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