Dissertation Chapter – Introduction


Trait anxiety is a single construct that reflects personal differences in the way people experience symptoms of anxiety. It is measured through specially designed questionnaires such as Spielberger Trait Anxiety Inventory. Research on trait anxiety has revealed that one can view it from two angles (Ackerman & Heggestad, 1997). The perspectives explain independent differences in the way different persons perform the test. The first is anxiety reactivity dimension based on the assumption that chances for experiencing anxious reaction to a particular situation is dependent on the prevailing conditions in the environment. The second is anxiety perseveration that reflects anxiety symptoms that emerge once a person experiences anxiety.

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As test anxiety is dependent on the situation and the prevailing conditions, it is essential to take certain factors into consideration whenever one conducts the test. Hereby, one of the considerations should be the assessment of the extent that the test score will be systematically evaluated to produce the desired results in the form of participants’ ability to take the test. Moreover, there is a need for a means of correcting the test scores in case the researcher realizes there are elements that could put constraints on the proper analysis and evaluation of the results.

Research findings by Mankus, Aldao, Kerns, Mayville, and Mennin (2013) indicated that any researcher should take the validity of intelligent tests under consideration as it affects the conclusions that they make from the scores. One of the common mistakes made in anxiety tests is the assumptions that researchers make with regard to the correlation of intelligent test and the criteria used in conducting the test. In most cases, the assumptions are likely to introduce bias in making inferences from the test scores. This aspect is a point of an ongoing debate among the researchers. Thus, in his analysis, Putwain (2008) has argued for the essence of test anxiety as an important aspect in the correlation studies that compare anxiety test results.

Bonaccio, Reeve and Winford (2012) focused on the role that test anxiety plays in the continuous latent differences in the functioning of the test items. A continuous factor is important because it allows the researcher to address similar issues and structural relationships between tests, test anxiety, and circumstantial factors during the actual testing. In fact, numerous literary works supported this approach that utilized test results from the self-reported questionnaires that included test scores, anxiety reactivity and anxiety perseverance contributors (Bonaccio et al., 2012). The model used in the research indicated that practical settings were important determinants of reactivity or perseverance of the participants when exposed to anxiety tests. Moreover, the selection process impacted on the outcome of the test as participants that were selected through a certain process were more likely to experience anxiety reactivity as opposed to anxiety perseverance; the same is true with anxiety perseverance.

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According to Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin, Bakermans-Kranenburg, and Van Ijzendoorn (2007), the situation and the participant in test anxiety function as the source of anxiety during the test. There are a number of important spheres due to which participants perceive the test and the situation differently. Some of the domains encourage anxiety, while others may hinder its development. Contemporary research and literature on test anxiety indicate that previous experiences of participants can significantly influence reactivity or perseverance to the anxiety test (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007). The knowledge of participants of such tests, their difficulties and the intention of the test score can impact on the outcome of test anxiety. In most cases when researchers are going to use test results for making important decisions, the participants can adjust the way they perceive the test in order to suit the situation.

It is crucial to consider self-perception of the participants as an important determinant in the way the individual expects the outcomes of the test to be. For instance, the perception that one is adequately prepared for an examination can boost their self-efficacy and the competence that they put in the test. On the other hand, Mateo, Blasco-Lafarga, Mart'Inez-Navarro, Guzm'An, and Zabala (2012) observed that prediction of failure can lead to low self-esteem and hence incompetence while performing the test.

However, some individuals participating in the test can draw motivation from past failures and, therefore, enhance their reactivity or perseverance of the test. Consequently, this aspect influences the test score in the anxiety test as participants adjust to the situation in line with their past experiences. Similarly, the absence of confidence, the desire to achieve perfection, maladaptive perfectionism, and emotional stability can affect the test scores in test anxiety (Mowbray, 2012). The perception of self is reflected in the belief about ones characteristics that implies the trait or state of being.

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Anxiety reactivity and anxiety perseverance are closely related to the outcome of the test scores in test anxiety (Kumke, 2008).. The two are connected to gender as they start to appear among male and female students at an early age. The prevalence of anxiety disorders is considerably higher in women than in men. The level of anxiety in a group of adolescents rises significantly in female participants (Nilsson, Buchholz, & Thunberg, 2012). The level of anxiety is also linked to the social and economic conditions and the perception of individual competence triggered by the personal perception of the ability to deal with anxiety. In most cases, female participants are more prone to negative perception of their ability to deal with anxiety-causing factors and are, therefore, more likely to experience anxiety reactivity as opposed to anxiety perseverance. Reeve and Bonaccio (2008) observed that the trend is opposite in the male participants with regard to test anxiety as they are more likely to experience the opposite side of the trend and a higher level of competence activated by the anxiety-causing factor.

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