Dual Task Interference in Low-~Level Abilities: The Role of Working Memory and Effects of Mathematics Anxiety
Mathematics anxiety is a negative affective reaction to situations involving mathematical thought and is commonly believed to reduce cognitive functioning by impairing the efficient use of working memory resources. The conventional theory describes that the processing disadvantage associated with high levels of math anxiety increasingly impairs performance as working memory demands increase in a math task. Despite this convention, recent reports demonstrate that the high math anxious disadvantage can be measured in tasks that are relatively free of working memory assistance (Maloney, Ansari, & Fugelang, 2011; Maloney, Risko, Ansari, & Fugelsang, 2010). The present study examines these relatively low level effects in college adults. A dual task paradigm was designed to test the engagement of different processing faculties in number comparison (Experiment 1) and enumeration (Experiment 2). The results of the present study mostly replicated the math anxiety effects reported in the literature; however, the dual task settings provide key insight into their interpretation. The results obtained are explained in the context of the Attentional Control Theory (Eysenck, Derakshan, Santos, & Calvo, 2007), and reasoning is provided for the extension of the math anxiety construct to include components related to attentional control. Finally, implications drawn from this extension are used to explore the interaction between math anxiety and achievement for future research.