Performance Anxiety Reduces Pre-Performance Memory
New research finds that performance anticipation at work or school may hinder your ability to remember what happened before your presentation or performance. Investigators also discovered that the presence of an audience may be an important factor in pre-performance memory deficit.
University of Waterloo researchers designed the study to explore what is called the next-in-line effect. “Performance anticipation could weaken memory because people tend to focus on the details of their upcoming presentation instead of paying attention to information that occurs before their performance,” says lead author Noah Forrin.
“People who experience performance anxiety may be particularly likely to experience this phenomenon.”
Forrin and his co-authors experimented with a variety of techniques that enhance memory, including the production effect — we can remember something best if we say it aloud.
One of the study’s co-authors, psychology professor Colin MacLeod, coined the term production effect from previous research. Prior studies have identified that reading aloud involves at least three distinct processes that help to encode memory: articulation, audition and self-reference.
Research by Forrin and MacLeod has demonstrated that reading aloud is better for memory than reading silently, writing, or hearing another person speak aloud. In the new study, however, the findings suggest that the production effect has a downside: When people anticipate reading aloud, they may have worse memory for information they encounter before reading aloud.
The researchers conducted four experiments with 400 undergraduate students and found that students have worse memory for words that they read silently when they anticipate having to read upcoming words aloud (compared to when they anticipate having to read upcoming words silently).
“Our results show that performance anticipation may be detrimental to effective memory encoding strategies,” said Forrin. “Students frequently have upcoming performances — whether for class presentations or the expectation of class participation.”
“We are currently examining whether the anticipation of those future performances reduces students’ learning and memory in the classroom.”
Forrin suggests that a strategy to avoid pre-performance memory deficits relates to scheduling.
“Try to get your performance over with by being the first student in class (or employee in a meeting) to present. After that, you can focus on others’ presentations without anticipating your own.”
The paper, “Wait for it… performance anticipation reduces recognition memory,” appears in the Journal of Memory and Language.
Source: University of Waterloo