Selective Attention Improves Under Stress: Implications for Theories of Social Cognition

Eran Chajut, Daniel Algom

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Three influential perspectives of social cognition entail conflicting predictions regarding the selectivity of performance under stress. According to the attention view, selectivity to the task-relevant attribute improves under stress because of reduced utilization of task-irrelevant attributes. According to the capacity-resource approach, stress depletes attentional resources wherefore selectivity fails for all but chronically accessible information. A third perspective, ironic process theory; similarly holds that selective attention fails under stress but adds that task-irrelevant information is rendered hyperaccessible. The theoretical derivations were tested in a series of experiments using 2 classes of selectivity measures, with special care taken to control for hitherto neglected factors of context. The results showed that the selectivity of attention improved under stress, consistent with the prediction of the attention view.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-248
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2003


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