Do better in math: How your body posture may change stereotype threat response
This study investigates posture on mental math performance. 125 students (M = 23.5 years) participated as part of a class activity. Half the students sat in an erect position while the other half sat in a slouched position and were asked to mentally subtract 7 serially from 964 for 30 seconds. They then reversed the positions before repeating the math subtraction task beginning at 834. They rated the math task difficulty on a scale from 0 (none) to 10 (extreme). The math test was rated significantly more difficult while sitting slouched (M = 6.2) than while sitting erect (M = 4.9) ANOVA [F(1,243) = 17.06, p < 0.001]. Participants with the highest test anxiety, math difficulty and blanking out scores (TAMDBOS) rated the math task significantly more difficult in the slouched position (M = 7.0) as compared to the erect position (M = 4.8) ANOVA [F(1,75) = 17.85, p < 0.001]. Tor the participants with the lowest 30% TAMDBOS, there was no significant difference between slouched (M=4.90) and erect positions (M = 4.0). The participants with the highest TAMDBOS experienced significantly more somatic symptoms as compared with the lowest TAMDBOS. Discussed are processes such as stereotypic threat associated with a ‘defense reaction’ by which posture can affect mental math and inhibit abstract thinking. Moreover, clinicians who work with students who have learning difficulty may improve outcome if they include posture changes.
Arroyo, I., Woolf, B. P., Burelson, W., Muldner, K., Rai, D., & Tai, M. (2014). A multimedia adaptive tutoring system for mathematics that addresses cognition, metacognition and affect. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 24(4), 387-426. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40593-014-0023-y
Boaler, J., & Dweck, C. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing Students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Brauer, S. G., Woollacott, M., & Shumway-Cook, A. (2001). The interacting effects of cognitive demand and recovery of postural stability in balance-impaired elderly persons. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 56(8), M489-M496. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/gerona/56.8.M489
Briñol, P., Petty, R.E., & Wagner, B. (2009). Body posture effects on self-evaluation: A self-validation approach. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 1053–1064. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.607
Canales, J. Z., Cordas, T. A., Fiquer, J. T., Cavalcante, A. F., & Moreno, R. A. (2010). Posture and body image in individuals with major depressive disorder: A controlled study. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 32(4), 375-380. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1516-44462010000400010
Carney, D.R., Cuddy, A.J., & Yap, A.J. (2010). Power posing: brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance. Psychological Science, 10, 1363-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797610383437
Danker, J. F., & Anderson, J. R. (2007). The roles of prefrontal and posterior parietal cortex in algebra problem solving: A case of using cognitive modeling to inform neuroimaging data. Neuroimage, 35(3), 1365-1377. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.01.032
Erickson, S. L. (2015). Math Anxiety and Metacognition in Mathematics Education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of California, Merced.
Faust, M. W. (1992). Analysis of physiological reactivity in mathematics anxiety (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH.
Harvey, R., Mason, L., Peper, E., & Joy, M. (in press). Effect of Posture Feedback Training on Health. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.
Lamont, R. A., Swift, H. J., & Abrams, D. (2015). A review and meta-analysis of age-based stereotype threat: Negative stereotypes, not facts, do the damage. Psychology and Aging, 30(1), 180-193. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0038586
Lyons, I. M., & Beilock, S. L. (2012). When math hurts: Math anxiety predicts pain network activation in anticipation of doing math. Plos One, 7(10), e48076. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048076
Maloney, E. A., Schaeffer, M. W., & Beilock, S. L. (2013). Mathematics anxiety and stereotype threat: shared mechanisms, negative consequences and promising interventions. Research in Mathematics Education, 15(2), 115-128. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14794802.2013.797744
McEwen, B. S., Bowles, N. P., Gray, J. D., Hill, M. N., Hunter, R. G., Karatsoreos, I. N., & Nasca, C. (2015). Mechanisms of stress in the brain. Nature Neuroscience, 18(10), 1353-1363. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.4086
Moore, L. J., Vine, S. J., Wilson, M. R., & Freeman, P. (2012). The effect of challenge and threat states on performance: An examination of potential mechanisms. Psychophysiology, 49(10), 1417-1425. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01449.x
Olff, M. (1999). Stress, depression and immunity: the role of defense and coping styles. Psychiatry Research, 85(1), 7-15. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0165-1781(98)00139-5
Peper, E., Booiman, A., Lin, I. M., & Harvey, R. (2016). Increase strength and mood with posture. Biofeedback, 44(2), 66–72. https://doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-44.2.04
Peper, E., Lin, I. M., Harvey, R., & Perez, J. (2017). How posture affects memory recall and mood. Biofeedback, 45 (2), 36-41. https://doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-45.2.01
Pletzer, B., Kronbichler, M., Nuerk, H.-C., & Kerschbaum, H. H. (2015). Mathematics anxiety reduces default mode network deactivation in response to numerical tasks. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 202. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00202
Pohl, K. A. (2017). “I’m Just Not Good at Math!” Rethinking what you know about mathematics. Learning to Teach, 5(1). Retrieved from http://utdr.utoledo.edu/learningtoteach/vol5/iss1/5
Porges, S. W. (2009). The polyvagal theory: New insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 76(Suppl 2), S86–S90. http://dx.doi.org/10.3949/ccjm.76.s2.17
Porges, S.W. (2015). Making the world safe for our children: Down-regulating defence and up-regulating social engagement to ‘Optimise’ the human experience. Children Australia-Consilience in Action-Lessons from an International Childhood Trauma Conference, 40(2), 114-123. https://dx.doi.org/10.1017/cha.2015.12
Porges, S.W., & Peper, E. (2015). When not saying no does not mean yes: Psychophysiological factors involved in date rape. Biofeedback, 43(1), 45-48. https://dx.doi.org/10.5298/1081-5937-43.1.01
Qin, S., Hermans, E. J., van Marle, H.J.F., Luo, J., and Fernandez, G. (2009). Acute psychological stress reduces working memory-related activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, Biological Psychiatry, 66(1), 25-32. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2009.03.006
Ramiez, G., Shaw, S.T., & Maloney, E.A. (2018). Math anxiety: Past research, promising interventions, and a new interpretation framework. Educational Psychologist, online. https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2018.1447384
Sapolsky, R. M. (2015). Stress and the brain: Individual variability and the Inverted-U. Nature Neuroscience, 18(10), 1344-1346. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.4109
Schmader, T., Hall, W., & Croft, A. (2015). Stereotype threat in intergroup relations. APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology, 2, 447-471. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14342-017
Shapiro, J. R., Williams, A. M., & Hambarchyan, M. (2013). Are all interventions created equal? A multi-threat approach to tailoring stereotype threat interventions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 277-288. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0030461
Smith, K. & Apicella, C, L. (2016). Winners, losers, and posers: The effect of power poses on testosterone and risk-taking following competition. Hormones and Behavior, 92,172-181. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2016.11.003
Spencer, S. J., Logel, C., & Davies, P. G. (2016). Stereotype threat. Annual Review of Psychology, 67, 415-437. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-073115-103235
Tsai, H. Y., Peper, E., & Lin, I. M. (2016). EEG patterns under positive/negative body postures and emotion recall tasks. NeuroRegulation, 3(1), 23-27. https://doi.org/10.15540/nr.3.1.23
Turner, J.C., C. Midgley, D.K. Meyer, M. Ghenn, E.M. Anderman, and Y. Kang. 2002. The classroom environment and students’ reports of avoidance strategies in mathematics: A multi method study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 88-106. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.124
Wilson, V. E., & Peper, E. (2004). The Effects of Upright and Slumped Postures on the Recall of Positive and Negative Thoughts. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 29(3), 189-95. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/B:APBI.0000039057.32963.34
Young, C.B., Wu, S.S., & Menon, V. (2012). The neurodevelopmental basis of math anxiety. Psychological Science, 23(5), 492–501. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0956797611429134
Copyright (c) 2018 Erik Peper, Richard Harvey, Lauren Mason, I-Mei Lin
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).