Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Impact of Anxiety and Gender on Perceiving the Mueller-Lyer Illusion

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

The Impact of Anxiety and Gender on Perceiving the Mueller-Lyer Illusion

Article excerpt

This study aimed at investigating the relationship between anxiety, gender and the Mueller-Lyer illusion perception among a sample of 242 undergraduate students (66 males and 176 females), of Kuwait University, Kuwait, to the Mueller-Lyer and Horizontal-Vertical illusion forms. The subjects were divided into 3 groups (high, middle and low anxiety) in accordance with their anxiety scale scores. Although the overall analysis showed no significant difference between males and females with respect to most variables, a significant difference in anxiety was observed where females scored higher than males. The results also showed that gender had no significant correlation to the Mueller-Lyer perception and Horizontal-Vertical illusion. In addition, no significant difference was found as regards the anxiety and gender relationship to degree of illusion. However, the data did show some significant difference in relationship between anxiety and the perception of illusion, with males exhibiting higher scores for anxiety tending to have higher illusion error scores than males with low anxiety scores. Females with higher anxiety scores also were found to have higher illusion error scores than females with low anxiety scores.

Keywords: anxiety, gender, Mueller-Lyer illusion perception, horizontal-vertical illusion forms, Kuwait University graduates, anxiety scales.

Several studies have investigated the phenomenon that those who are high in anxiety trait have a bias effect in their interpretation of ambiguous stimuli and situations. Eysenck, Macleod, and Mathews (1987) suggested that high anxiety is associated with interpreting ambiguous stimuli in a threatening fashion. They also suggested that anxious participants concentrate their attention more on sites vacated by emotionally negative stimuli. The results of these studies, as a whole, showed that anxiety - though it is assumed to evoke - also has a negative memory bias, and should be assumed to have greater impact on basic levels of processing (Stuchlikova, 2000). Eysenck (1992) proposed that the hypervigilance of high anxiety individuals involves a high rate of environmental scanning, a broadening of attention prior to the detection of threat-related or task-relevant stimuli, and a narrowing of attention when such stimuli are being processed.

The literature does provide some support for the assumption that aroused anxiety facilitates an analytical mode of processing (Cunningham, 1988; Kuhl, 1983; Salovey & Rodin, 1985; Sedikides, 1992). There also are some inconsistent findings, such as the study by Cunningham and Ashley (2002), who examined the relationship of performance with intensity and direction of trait anxiety among students participating in a beginners' collegiate class of golf, and found the participants' scores to be dichotomized into those with negative perceptions of anxiety (debilitating interpreters) and those with positive perceptions (facilitating interpreters). As with attention orientation, habitual preferences for vigilance and cognitive avoidance are explained by the constructs of intolerance of uncertainty (vigilance) and intolerance of emotional arousal (avoidance).

Most research has indicated that anxious patients selectively attend to threatening stimuli. Reviewing available research in the field, Stewart, Conrod, Gignac and Pihl (1998) designed two studies to assess whether high Anxiety Sensitive (AS) subjects selectively process threat cues pertaining to the feared catastrophic consequences of anxiety, and to examine potential gender differences in selective processing of such threat cues among high versus low AS subjects. They found significant gender differences in the principal feared consequences for AS subjects, in that females with high AS scores selectively processed only physical threat cues relative to low AS females, and males with high scores of AS selectively processed only cues pertaining to social and psychological threat relative to low AS males. …

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