Arousal - A Brief User's Guide

Arousal is the readiness for action of the body or mind. It is an essential part of our existence, since its variations enables us to focus our energy for demanding or important tasks, while saving it under less stressful situations.

Mental and physical arousal are different but closely linked; an increase or decrease in one usually causes the corresponding change in the other.

In the brain noradrenergic and cholinergic activations systems of the brainstem.

noradrenaline - clarity, readiness

In the body arousal is mainly controlled though the brain's action through the sympathic nervous system, which also causes the release of adrenaline.

Yerkes-Dodson's law

Different tasks have different optimal levels of arousal - many sports tasks require arousal levels that make normal mental activities impossible. In general, the more simple, direct and forceful the task, the higher lies the optimum. Complex tasks work best at low arousal levels. 1) Optimal performance is associated with moderate levels of arousal or motivation 2) There is an inverse relationship between arousal or motivational level and task difficulty (High levels of arousal result in better performance for easy tasks, but lower performance for hard tasks)

Effects of Arousal

high arousal stress hormones memory wasteful mood stronger - anger, happiness

At higher levels of arousal we tend to use fast, well learned strategies instead of searching for new possibilities.

Reflectiveness The Easterbrook Hypothesis (1959) Arousal focuses attention to fewer cue in the environment However, different types of arousal have differential effects on memory (Eysenck 1982, 1984) High arousal due to incentives increases capacity/efficiency of STM * High arousal due to noise or anxiety decreases capacity/efficiency of STM but for LTM: * incentives have no effect * noise facilitates retrieval * anxiety hinders retrieval Humphreys-Revelle model (1) arousal facilitates attention (2) arousal facilitates long term memory storage (3) arousal hinders immediate (working) memory ii) Anderson-Revelle model (1) beneficial effects of energetic arousal (2) detrimental effects of tense arousal

Different people have different basic arousal levels.

Extroverts Introverts

Generate arousal

Tension: One way of increasing the arousal level is to tense muscles. [REF]

Physical exertion increase metabolism


Put people under performance pressure/


Decrease arousal

breathing relaxation