Factors Influencing Performance: Examples

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  • 0:01 Workin'
  • 1:22 Controllable Inhibitors
  • 3:54 Uncontrollable Inhibits
  • 6:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we will explore controllable and uncontrollable factors that will influence and/or inhibit a person's performance on tests, such as specific behaviors that could cause problems. We'll also discuss ways to mitigate these factors.


Sometimes I can write and record these lessons like nobody's business. Other times, it takes me a long time to get going because there is so much other stuff that needs to be done - like checking out webcomics, getting water, rechecking webcomics, wandering around, and talking to my cats. So yeah, that probably took about ten minutes to write just now.

In this lesson, we will be discussing performance inhibitors, which are factors that will decrease test-taking abilities or reduce desired behaviors. When it comes to behaviors, I am talking about when you're on display and your actions are being watched. Think about these inhibitors when you are interviewing, part of a psychological experiment, or being assessed for work.

This will be really good to know if you're ever running an experiment because these factors will skew your results. Or, as we will discuss with other inhibitors, they will actually decrease test results. If something important, like a comprehensive test, is about to take place, it would be good to identify and reduce these different inhibitors.

There are a lot of different things that can inhibit performance on a test or whatever you happen to be doing. I'm going to break them up into things that can be controlled to some degree and some things that are just there and you have to deal with.

Controllable Inhibitors

Test-taking anxiety is probably the easiest one to see. It is intense nervousness from an examination situation. Ever hear the one about needing to study for blood tests at the doctors? That's these people. Test anxiety is extremely common and for some people never fully goes away.

What it does is jack up your heart rate and start dropping stress hormones into your blood stream, effectively reducing one's IQ and general intelligence. Dealing with test anxiety involves awareness of the anxiety source, countering active stress processes like deep breathing or stopping negative self-talk and reducing caffeine and stress, which can overtax a system.

Cautiousness is excessively close attention and doubtful movement. Similar to those who suffer from test anxiety are people who spend five minutes per question second-guessing themselves - or the people who need to complete some task, like putting things in a particular order, and spend most of their time checking and rechecking. Or, I have one friend who overdid every assignment, doubling or tripling the workload to make sure she got everything perfect.

Like with test anxiety, awareness of the anxiety source and countering the active stress process are good ways of effectively dealing with cautiousness. I would also like to add affirmations to this list because telling yourself you are fine and can do it means a lot.

What makes cautiousness and test anxiety worse? Timed tests, which are examinations stressing speed of answers, and motivation, which is an intrinsic quality of desire to complete the task, can both make these conditions worse. Adding in a timed element to a test is a good way to paralyze someone with excessive cautiousness and test anxiety. When it comes to motivation, we have all had tests, assignments, or work that we just don't want to do. It's a good way to kill a score or review because unmotivated people don't do as well on things.

To counter the stress of timed tests, I recommend determining if the timed element is necessary, because if it isn't, it is only adding stress for no reason. As for motivation, discussing reasons the examination or behavior is necessary is a good start. We all remember thinking about how advanced calculus or English isn't necessary, so helping them find intrinsic reasons for wanting to learn is also a good thing.

Uncontrollable Inhibitors

Sometimes things are just beyond the control of the person doing the examination. Cohort effects are group-wide bonding or understanding. A group can be anything, such as an entire generation growing up knowing only the War on Terror or a small town knowing what it is like to live through a severe drought. When it comes to how this may influence testing results, entire groups of people may be shifted.

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