Anxious people may be better at making quick decisions: Study

Anxiety is known to affect performance in a number of tasks, like even saying hello to someone.

A new study has found evidence that anxious individuals are better at making quick distinctions between friends and foes.

Anxiety is known to affect performance in a number of tasks, like even saying hello to someone.

However, a new study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests that anxiety may actually lead to improved performance in some situations.

Study author Tsachi Ein-Dor of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya said to PsyPost, “I had indications from previous research that attachment anxiety is linked with better ability to detect various threats. People high in attachment anxiety are usually stressed and over-reacting, however. What I wanted to examine is their performance in shooting decisions – would they, and not calm and secure people, be better at making accurate shooting decisions?”

The study was based out of Israel and involved 38 men and 52 women. It utilized an augmented reality iPad game called Real Strike, the game has a rifle-like sight through the camera and allows users to virtually “shoot” objects.

The study required the participants to shoot targets who ran into view, some carrying weapons, and some carried other objects.

The participants were also made to answer a questionnaire that categorised them as having either attachment anxiety or attachment avoidance.

Those with high attachment anxiety tend to agree with statements such as “I worry about being abandoned” while those with high avoidance may agree with statements such as “I prefer not to show a partner how I feel deep down.”

Tsachi found that those with high attachment anxiety were more accurate at detecting threats and shooting the target correctly. They had fewer misses, and took lesser shots at people holding harmless objects.

“The average person should take away from our study that personality should be appraised in the correct context,” Ein-Dor told PsyPost. “Being anxious is often appraised as maladaptive. We have shown that contrary to the common thought, calmness is maladaptive in the context of shooting decisions, whereas anxiety is adaptive.”

The study, “Friend or foe? Evidence that anxious people are better at distinguishing targets from non-targets“, co-authored by Perry-Paldi and Gilad Hirschberger used a cross-sectional methodology, which makes it difficult for researchers to make any strong conclusions about cause and effect.

Tsachi added, “People should not appraise their personality as good or bad. Each personality disposition has its advantages (and disadvantages). Hence, people need to search for the context in which their personality would succeed."

Who would have ever thought anxious people would be better at shooting decisions?

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