The Yerkes–Dodson law
is a claimed empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....
relationship between arousal
Arousal is a physiological and psychological state of being awake or reactive to stimuli. It involves the activation of the reticular activating system in the brain stem, the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system, leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure and a condition of...
and performance, originally developed by psychologist
Psychologist is a professional or academic title used by individuals who are either:* Clinical professionals who work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts .* Scientists conducting psychological research or teaching psychology in a college...
s Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson in 1908. The "law" asserts that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point. When levels of arousal become too high, performance decreases. The process is often illustrated graphically as a curvilinear, inverted U-shaped curve which increases and then decreases with higher levels of arousal.
Levels of arousal
Research has found that different tasks require different levels of arousal for optimal performance. For example, difficult or intellectually demanding tasks may require a lower level of arousal (to facilitate concentration), whereas tasks demanding stamina or persistence may be performed better with higher levels of arousal (to increase motivation).
Because of task differences, the shape of the curve can be highly variable. For simple or well-learned tasks, the relationship can be considered linear with improvements in performance as arousal increases. For complex, unfamiliar, or difficult tasks, the relationship between arousal and performance becomes inverse, with declines in performance as arousal increases.
The effect of task difficulty led to the hypothesis that the Yerkes–Dodson Law can be decomposed into two distinct factorscompare bathtub curve
The bathtub curve is widely used in reliability engineering. It describes a particular form of the hazard function which comprises three parts:*The first part is a decreasing failure rate, known as early failures....
. The upward part of the inverted U can be thought of as the energizing effect of arousal. The downward part is caused by negative effects of arousal (or stress) on cognitive processes like attention
Attention is the cognitive process of paying attention to one aspect of the environment while ignoring others. Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology and cognitive neuroscience....
(e.g., "tunnel vision"), memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....
, and problem-solving.
There has been research indicating that the correlation suggested by Yerkes and Dodson exists (such as that of Broadhurst, 1959; Duffy, 1962; Anderson, 1988), but a cause of the correlation has not yet successfully been established (Anderson, Revelle, & Lynch, 1989).
Relationship to glucocorticoids
A 2007 review of the effects of stress hormones (glucocorticoids) and human cognition revealed that memory performance vs. circulating levels of glucocorticoids does manifest an upside down U shaped curve and the authors noted the resemblance to the Yerkes–Dodson curve. For example, long-term potentiation
In neuroscience, long-term potentiation is a long-lasting enhancement in signal transmission between two neurons that results from stimulating them synchronously. It is one of several phenomena underlying synaptic plasticity, the ability of chemical synapses to change their strength...
(the process of forming long-term memories) is optimal when glucocorticoid levels are mildly elevated whereas significant decreases of LTP are observed after adrenalectomy (low GC state) or after exogenous glucocorticoid administration (high GC state).
This review also revealed that in order for a situation to induce a stress response, it has to be interpreted as:
- novel, and/or
- unpredictable, and/or
- not controllable by the individual, and/or
- in the presence of a social evaluative threat.
It has also been shown that elevated levels of glucocorticoids enhanced memory for emotionally arousing events but lead more often than not to poor memory for material unrelated to the source of stress/emotional arousal.
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Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...
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Emotion can have a powerful impact on memory. Numerous studies have shown that the most vivid autobiographical memories tend to be of emotional events, which are likely to be recalled more often and with more clarity and detail than neutral events....
- Flashbulb memory
A flashbulb memory is a highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshot' of the moment and circumstances in which a piece of surprising and consequential news was heard. Flashbulb memory is an appropriate name for the phenomenon in that it suggests surprise, an indiscriminate illumination, and...
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Incentive theory may refer to*Organizational_studies#Theories_and_models - a concept of human resources or management theory.*Motivation#Incentive_theory - a motivational theory...
- Laffer curve
In economics, the Laffer curve is a theoretical representation of the relationship between government revenue raised by taxation and all possible rates of taxation. It is used to illustrate the concept of taxable income elasticity . The curve is constructed by thought experiment...