When less is more: Information, Emotional Arousal and the Ecological Reframing of the Yerkes-Dodson Law

Yaniv Hanoch, Oliver Vitouch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Easterbrook’s (1959) cue-utilization theory has been widely used to explain the inverted U-shaped relationship, initially established by Yerkes and Dodson, between emotional arousal and performance. The basic tenet of the theory assumes that high levels of arousal lead to restriction of the amount of information to which agents can pay attention. One fundamental derivative of the theory, as typically conceived in psychology, is the assumption that restriction of information or the ability to process a smaller set of data is fundamentally disadvantageous. To explore the merits of this point, we first argue that the relationship depicted by this collapsed version of the Yerkes-Dodson law is far too simplistic to account for the complex relationship between various cognitive functions and emotional arousal. Second, conceptualization of arousal as a unidimensional construct needs to be rejected. Finally, and most importantly, we challenge the notion that having more information available is necessarily preferable to having less information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-452
Number of pages26
JournalTheory and Psychology
Volume14
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • arousal
  • attention
  • cue-utilization theory
  • decision making
  • ecological rationality
  • emotional arousal
  • memory
  • stopping rules
  • Yerkes–Dodson law

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