Worry as a Function of Public Speaking State Anxiety Type

By Addison, Penny; Clay, Ele et al. | Communication Reports, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Worry as a Function of Public Speaking State Anxiety Type


Addison, Penny, Clay, Ele, Xie, Shuang, Sawyer, Chris R., Behnke, Ralph R., Communication Reports


Although most speakers become progressively more comfortable while presenting public speeches, a process called habituation, many others experience increased psychological discomfort, usually during the first moments of their presentations. Previous researchers refer to this phenomenon as sensitization. One explanation for these pattern differences is that excessive worrying disrupts the processing of emotional stimuli thereby contributing to sensitization. In the present study, 60 speakers, 30 of each pattern type, present five-minute informative speeches to audiences composed of 20 peers plus an instructor. Immediately following the presentations, speakers indicate the degree to which they made negative self-statements while speaking. The results demonstrate that sensitizers report more worrisome thoughts during public speaking than habituators. In the present study, differences in pattern type account for 39.6% of the variance in worry during public speaking.

Although many people experience public speaking anxiety (APA, 2000), state anxiety varies considerably during a speech performance. Close examination of psychological state anxiety for individual speakers before, during, and after public speaking reveals two distinct response patterns (Behnke & Sawyer, 2001). Specifically, most speakers become progressively more comfortable while presenting public speeches, a process called habituation (Rachman & Levitt, 1988). However, for a substantial number of individuals, the first moment of speaking elevates their anxiety for much if not all of the speaking situation, creating a sensitization effect (Sawyer & Behnke, 2002) that forestalls normal functioning in speaking situations. One explanation for these different patterns in adaptation is that worrying during performance disrupts the processing of stimuli thereby contributing to sensitization. In the present study, both patterns of public speaking anxiety will be examined in relation to the tendency of speakers to worry during performance.

THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE

State Anxiety Pattern Types

According to Spielberger (1966), state anxiety is "a transitory state or condition of the organism that varies in intensity and fluctuates over time" (p. 12). Despite these moment-by-moment fluctuations, Behnke and his research associates are able to establish overall patterns for psychological (Behnke & Beatty, 1981; Carlile, Behnke, & Kitchens, 1977) and physiological (Behnke & Carlile, 1971; Behnke, Carlile, & Lamb, 1974) speech anxiety. In these studies, state anxiety is plotted at key moments or milestones before, during and immediately following speech performance. For example, psychological public speaking state anxiety is highest during anticipation (approximately one minute before speaking) and declines at each milestone thereafter. Several recent studies, however, provide evidence for two wave-forms within this general trend.

In a series of studies, Beck and Shipherd (Beck, Ohtake, & Shipherd, 1999; Beck & Shipherd, 1997; Beck, Shipherd, & Read, 1999; Beck, Shipherd, & Zebb, 1997; Shipherd & Beck, 1998) report that they detected two types of state anxiety reactions and attributed each to a distinct psychological process. According to these investigators, many participants experience high levels of state anxiety at the onset of a threatening event (such as breathing enriched levels of CO2) that decline progressively with repeated or continued exposure. This pattern is associated with habituation to stress. A second response pattern, in which state anxiety rises dramatically at confrontation and either remains high or does not decline appreciably, is associated with sensitization. Consequently, participants displaying these patterns are labeled as habituators and sensitizers respectively. Behnke and Sawyer (2001) also identified state anxiety patterns that represent the processes of habituation and sensitization during public speaking.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Worry as a Function of Public Speaking State Anxiety Type
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?