Poster A22, Saturday, March 25, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Simple arithmetic: Not so simple for highly math anxious individuals
Hyesang Chang1, Lisa Sprute1, Erin A. Maloney1, Sian L. Beilock1, Marc G. Berman1; 1The University of Chicago
Fluency with simple arithmetic, typically achieved in early elementary school, is thought to be one of the building blocks of mathematical competence. Behavioral studies with adults indicate that math anxiety (a fear or apprehension about math) is associated with poor performance on cognitively demanding math problems. However, it remains unclear whether there are fundamental differences in how high and low math anxious individuals approach overlearned simple arithmetic problems that are less reliant on cognitive resources. The current study examined the neural representations underlying simple arithmetic performance across high and low math anxious individuals. Participants indicated whether single-digit addition or subtraction problems presented with various types of solutions were correct while undergoing functional MRI scans. We implemented a partial least squares (PLS) analysis, a data-driven, multivariate analysis method (McIntosh & Lobaugh, 2004) to measure distributed patterns of activity associated with performance across the whole brain. Despite overall high performance across high and low math anxious individuals, we provide evidence that simple arithmetic performance depends on the fronto-parietal attentional network (inferior frontal gyrus and superior parietal lobule) differently as a function of math anxiety. Specifically, the low – compared to high – math anxious individuals perform better when they activate this network less – a potential indication of more automatic problem solving in less math anxious individuals. These findings point to the possibility that performance differences on cognitively demanding math problems between high and low math anxious individuals may arise from the way that these individuals approach the most fundamental math problems.
Topic Area: EMOTION & SOCIAL: Emotion-cognition interactions