Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Corr I 406
Resource theory/cognitive psychology/personality/Matthews: Resource theory was applied to personality research initially to explain detrimental effects of trait anxiety. Early research (e.g., Spielberger 1966)(1) established that state anxiety disrupted information-processing on demanding tasks, but theory was vague about the nature of the interference. The greater sensitivity of performance to worry, rather than anxious emotion and autonomic arousal (Zeidner 1998)(2), encouraged a cognitive rather than an arousal theory perspective. Irwin Sarason’s (e.g., Sarason, Sarason and Pierce 1995)(3) influential theory of test anxiety suggested that the effects of worry are mediated by diversion of resources onto ‘off-task’ processing of personal concerns. >Attention, >Resources, >Performance.
Corr I 407
VsResource Theory/VsRevelle/VsHumphreys: The Humphreys and Revelle (1984)(4) theory successfully predicts the trend towards Extraversion enhancing short-term memory but impairing attention (subject to arousal and time of day factors). The theory also states that the key mediating factors are resource availability and arousal, but substantiating these mediating mechanisms has proved more difficult.
1) One problem is that arousal is likely multidimensional, with different arousal dimensions impacting performance in different ways. Although Extraversion may correlate negatively with some psychophysiological indices of arousal (De Pascalis 2004)(5), the trait also tends to correlate positively with subjective energetic arousal.
2) a)The Humphreys and Revelle (1984)(4) theory is compatible with the superior performance of introverts on vigilance tasks (Koelega 1992)(6), but two difficulties should be pointed out. First, we would expect introvert superiority to be especially marked on the most demanding vigilance tasks that, presumably, require the maximal allocation of resources (cf., Warm, Matthews and Finomore 2008)(7).
b) Tests for mediation have failed to confirm that Extraversion differences are a consequence of variation in arousal, whether measured subjectively (Matthews, Davies and Lees 1990)(8) or using the EEG (Matthews and Amelang 1993)(9). Extraversion and arousal often appear to have separable effects in these studies. >VsRevelle.
Corr I 408
3) Another challenge to resource theory comes from studies of dual-task performance. Assuming that dual-task interference reflects an insufficiency of attentional resources, extraverts should be more vulnerable to interference (subject to the usual caveats concerning time of day and arousal). In fact, broadly, extraverts tend to out-perform introverts in dual-task performance studies (Matthews, Deary and Whiteman 2003)(10), but studies also show that finding the effect is dependent on careful control of task stimuli (e.g, Szymura and Necka 1998)(11).



1. Spielberger, C. D. 1966. The effects of anxiety on complex learning and academic achievement, in C. D. Spielberger (ed.), Anxiety and behaviour, pp. 3–20. London: Academic Press
2. Zeidner, M. 1998. Test anxiety: the state of the art. New York: Plenum
3. Sarason, I. G., Sarason, B. R. and Pierce, G. R. 1995. Cognitive interference: at the intelligence-personality crossroads, in D. H. Saklofske and M. Zeidner (eds.), International handbook of personality and intelligence, pp. 285–319. New York: Plenum
4. Humphreys, M. S. and Revelle, W. 1984. Personality, motivation and performance: a theory of the relationship between individual differences and information processing, Psychological Review 91: 153–84
5. De Pascalis, V. 2004. On the psychophysiology of Extraversion, in R. Stelmack (ed.), On the psychobiology of personality: essays in honor of Marvin Zuckerman, pp. 295–327. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science
6. Koelega, H. S. 1992. Extraversion and vigilance performance: 30 years of inconsistencies, Psychological Bulletin 112: 239–58
7. Warm, J. S., Matthews, G. and Finomore, V. S. 2008. Workload and stress in sustained attention, in P. A. Hancock and J. L. Szalma (eds.), Performance under stress, pp. 115–41. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing
8. Matthews, G., Davies, D. R. and Lees, J. L. 1990. Arousal, Extraversion, and individual differences in resource availability, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 59: 150–68
9. Matthews, G. and Amelang, M. 1993. Extraversion, arousal theory and performance: a study of individual differences in the EEG, Personality and Individual Differences 14: 347–64
10. Matthews, G., Deary, I. J. and Whiteman, M. C. 2003. Personality traits, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press
11. Szymura, B. and Necka, E. 1998. Visual selective attention and personality: an experimental verification of three models of Extraversion, Personality and Individual Differences 24: 713–29



Gerald Matthews, „ Personality and performance: cognitive processes and models“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Cognitive Psychology
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009


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