Psychonomic Bulletin and Review
The way in which we respond to everyday stressors can have a profound impact on cognitive functioning. Maladaptive stress responses in particular are generally associated with impaired cognitive performance. We argue, however, that the cognitive system mediating task performance is also a critical determinant of the stress-cognition relationship. Consistent with this prediction, we observed that stress reactivity consistent with a maladaptive, threat response differentially predicted performance on two categorization tasks. Increased threat reactivity predicted enhanced performance on an information-integration task (i.e., learning is thought to depend upon a procedural-based memory system), and a (nonsignificant) trend for impaired performance on a rule-based task (i.e., learning is thought to depend upon a hypothesis-testing system). These data suggest that it is critical to consider both variability in the stress response and variability in the cognitive system mediating task performance in order to fully understand the stress-cognition relationship.
Ell, Shawn W.; Cosley, Brandon; and McCoy, Shannon L., "When bad stress goes good: increased threat reactivity predicts improved category learning performance" (2010). Psychology Faculty Scholarship. 23.
(c) Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013. The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/ doi: 10.3758/s13423-010-0018-0
post-print (i.e. final draft post-refereeing with all author corrections and edits)