Article | Journal of Experimental Psychology: General

Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement

by Alison Wood Brooks

Abstract

Individuals often feel anxious in anticipation of tasks such as speaking in public or meeting with a boss. I find that an overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety. However, across several studies involving karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance, I investigate an alternative strategy: reappraising anxiety as excitement. Compared to those who attempt to calm down, individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement using minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying "I am excited" out loud) or simple messages (e.g., "get excited"), which lead them to feel more excited, adopt an opportunity mindset (as opposed to a threat mindset), and improve their subsequent performance. These findings suggest the importance of arousal congruency during the emotional reappraisal process.

Keywords: Opportunities; Attitudes; Performance;

Citation:

Brooks, Alison Wood. "Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (forthcoming). (Received Outstanding Dissertation Award by International Association for Conflict Management 2013.)