Motivation and Anxiety

According to one of the earliest interesting formulations of modern psychology—the Yerkes Dodson Law of 1908—and Hebb's classic formulation (1955), optimal "hedonic tone" or sense of well-being (and hence performance in learning) is achieved at a moderate level of arousal. Too little arousal leads to boredom, and too much to anxiety, both of which inhibit effective performance.


A link to Hebb's original article

This model serves quite well for present purposes, but has been effectively criticised and modified by Apter (1989). He distinguishes two modes of experience—one is oriented towards excitement (with boredom as its opposite pole), and the other towards relaxation, with anxiety as its opposite pole.


For more than you wanted to know on this go here There are parallels in this with my Skeleton and Shell model

The dubious so-called "accelerated learning" movement, on the other hand, argued that learning is best achieved in a state of minimal anxiety and relaxation. However, in the words of one of their sites: "Accelerated Learning is a proven method of increasing the absorption of knowledge." That is a very limited conception of learning (lowest level of Bloom's taxonomy in the cognitive domain), so even if Lozanov's (its founder's) theories are correct their applicability may be limited.

This topic exposes some of the major limitations of using the web as a research library. You will get many “false positives” (people hyping their educational snake oil), and quite a few “false negatives” (people illegitimately rubbishing stuff on the basis of their own prejudices). You may get some true positives (which people want to tell you about), but true negatives are rare, because the language is that of "failure" to demonstrate an effect.

Don't trust. Triangulate. And that goes for this site as well!

Also see the page on "Innovations" And that on "What Works" And for more on False Positives etc. with particular reference to assessment, go here

A fuller discussion of motivation should also cover Deep and Surface learning.

Up-dated 24 March 14

To reference this page copy and paste the text below:

Atherton J S (2013) Learning and Teaching; [On-line: UK] retrieved from

Original material by James Atherton: last up-dated overall 10 February 2013

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