Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Optimism, Self-Esteem and Social Support among Students with High and Low Test Anxiety

Academic journal article Journal of Psychosocial Research

Optimism, Self-Esteem and Social Support among Students with High and Low Test Anxiety

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

When an individual perceives an event being a threat to their ego or self-esteem, the basic human emotion experienced by the individual is anxiety which consists of fear and uncertainty (Sarason, 1988). A commonly cited definition of anxiety refers it as a physiological state characterized by cognitive, physical and behavioural components (Seligman, Walker & Rosenhan, 2001). One of the most threatening events that cause anxiety among students today seems to be test anxiety or a fear of examinations. When students develop an extreme fear of performing poorly in an examination, they experience test anxiety. Test anxiety is the uneasiness, apprehension, or nervousness felt by students who had a fear of failing an examination. Students who have test anxiety experience any of the following: fear of embarrassment by a teacher; the association of grades with personal worth; time pressures; fear of alienation from parents or friends; or feeling a loss of control. While the term "test anxiety" refers specifically to students, many workers share the same experience with regard to their career or profession. The fear of failing at a task and being negatively evaluated for failure can have a similar negative effect on the adult.

Test anxiety involves a combination of physiological over-arousal, worry and dread about test performance, and often it interferes with normal learning and lowers test performance. It has been found that 30% of the students suffer from various levels of test anxiety (Shaked, 1996). Wine (1971, 1982) in her cognitive - attentional theory of test anxiety, claimed that test anxiety has a negative influence on an individual's performance due to the fact that the test anxious person tends to divide their attention between personal variables and variables connected to the task. In contrast, non-test anxious persons are able to focus their attention more on the task itself. Test anxiety reduces the performance of those who experience it (Sarason, 1980). In addition, it causes emotional suffering (Ben-Dov, 1992) too. When students develop an extreme fear of performing poorly in an examination, they experience test anxiety. Test anxiety is a major factor contributing to a variety of negative outcomes including psychological distress, academic underachievement, academic failure and insecurity (Hembree, 1988). Test anxiety is a serious problem for many children and adolescents attending elementary and secondary schools (Ergene, 2003).

Test anxiety is a product of an interaction between an individuals' disposition eg., personal traits such as optimism/pessimism, self-efficacy, self-esteem and perceived threat of the situation encountered, which is the outcome process of transactional models of anxiety related performance (Endler & Parker, 1992; Lazarus, 1999). Hence, personal traits such as optimism and self-esteem and societal factors like social support play a vital role in influencing test anxiety.

Optimism as a construct, strikes a chord of interest in many domains of psychology. Optimism is defined as a set of cognitive expectations or attributions about the future that are positive and hopeful (Peterson, 2000). Optimism indicates thinking positively about the future and well-being, which indicates that an optimistic person is not only significantly less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety, but also much more likely to succeed in academics, occupational, political, and athletic fields (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

Self-esteem is another component which is a causal factor of test anxiety (Endler & Parker, 1992). Self-esteem is defined as a stable sense of personal worth or worthiness (Rosenberg, 1965). Self-esteem is defined as "the experience of being competent to cope with basic challenges of life and being worthy of happiness" (Branden, 1969). These days, the basic challenge for students is examination and self-esteem is an important construct to overcome the fear of examination. …

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