It’s time for final exams, and for college students it’s a time where performance stakes are incredibly high. Ever wonder why you can know the answers right before a test but then tank when the multiple choice questions are staring you in the face? Our neuroscience has an elegant explanation as to why this happens; the Yerkes-Dodson Law (Diamond et al., 2007). Robert Yerkes and John Dodson quantified this in 1908 to help others visualize what too much (or not enough) stress can do to overall performance during tasks.
Ideally, we want to hover right around that middle line where the amount of “stress” in our lives is mild to moderate and our performance can be at its peak. You may be asking yourself, “How does not having enough stress in your life make your performance suffer? Isn’t stress bad?” Good question, and here’s how it works. “Good stress” is just enough to perform but when the body activates too much of it, performance suffers. This has to do with too much sympathetic nervous system arousal which then starts to shut down the higher order thinking functions that help us plan, organize, and maintain control in favor of lower level reptilian brain stuff like reactivity, impulsivity, and reduced motor control. Striking the balance, or what neuroscientists call homeostatis, is critical for our mental and physical well-being and optimal performance. Want to perform well on finals? Try Buzzies if you feel stressed when you are studying and then try them just before a test to calm your anxiety or even during tests to keep you in the zone. Let us know how it goes on our facebook page.