Effects of Anxiety on Anticipation and Visual Search in Dynamic, Time-Constrained Situations

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We tested the predictions of Attentional Control Theory (ACT) by examining how anxiety affects visual search strategies, performance efficiency, and performance effectiveness using a dynamic, temporal-constrained anticipation task. Higher and lower skilled players viewed soccer situations under 2 task constraints (near vs. far situation) and were tested under high (HA) and low (LA) anxiety conditions. Response accuracy (effectiveness) and response time, perceived mental effort, and eye-movements (all efficiency) were recorded. A significant increase in anxiety was evidenced by higher state anxiety ratings on the MRF-L scale. Increased anxiety led to decreased performance efficiency because response times and mental effort increased for both skill groups whereas response accuracy did not differ. Anxiety influenced search strategies, with higher skilled players showing a decrease in number of fixation locations for far situations under HA compared with LA condition when compared with lower skilled players. Findings provide support for ACT with anxiety impairing processing efficiency and, potentially, top-down attentional control across different task constraints.

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