The effects of anxiety, motivation, and level of ability on academic achievement

Brown, A. L.


Brown, A. L. (1967) The effects of anxiety, motivation, and level of ability on academic achievement.

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This research discusses the various theoretical approaches to the conception of anxiety as a motivational determinant of academic achievement. In particular the theoretical model and experimental investigations of three major research programmes are compared and contrasted: Drive theory and activation concepts of emotionally based drive; the investigations of situationally specific anxieties, notably test anxiety; and the approach-avoidance achievement motivation model of Atkinson and McClelland. The aim of this investigation was to attempt to clarify the interaction between intellectual capacity, anxiety and performance, both in terms of anxiety to achieve success, conceived as a positive drive, and anxiety to avoid failure, seen as a negative drive. Drive theory assumes the non specificity of drive in relation to performance, stressing the strength of the drive involved as the important variable. Achievement motivation theory stresses the directional component of drive, that is the relative strength of fear of failure and hope of success. It was predicted, (following drive theory conceptions of level of task complexity, and theoretical conceptions of subjectivity probability of success that anxiety would have a differential effect on academic performance, according to the ability of the subjects. The suggestion that for subjects of superior ability anxiety would have a facilitating effect was investigated. Techniques of measuring motivational strength aid direction were analysed and some attempt at clarification of these techniques was conducted. Three samples were tested at three age levels assumed to be particularly stressful in the British educational system, pre-eleven plus (one hundred and fifty subjects, male and female); pre-G.C.E. (one hundred female subjects) and pre-first year undergraduate examinations (seventy female subjects). It was found that anxiety and achievement-need have a differential effect on academic performance according to the intellectual ability of the subject. For subjects of high ability, the strength of the drive was found to be the important variable, while for subjects of average ability the direction of drive, or the overall motivational-orientation was found to be of most importance. The results are discussed in relation to theories of emotionally based drive and the risk-taking model of achievement motivation.

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This is a Accepted version
This version's date is: 1967
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Item TypeThesis (Doctoral)
TitleThe effects of anxiety, motivation, and level of ability on academic achievement
AuthorsBrown, A. L.
Uncontrolled KeywordsEducational Psychology; Education; Ability; Academic; Achievement; Anxiety; Effects; Level; Motivation; Student Achievement; Student Achievement



Deposited by () on 31-Jan-2017 in Royal Holloway Research Online.Last modified on 31-Jan-2017


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