Manifest anxiety, stress, and learning: a test of Saltz's hypothesis

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Saltz (1970) has hypothesized that the Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale (MAS) is an index to the types of situations that constitute stress for individuals scoring at the extremes of the scale. Specifically, the behavior of individuals scoring as low-anxious on the MAS is disrupted by pain-induced stress but not necessarily by failure-induced stress, while the behavior of individuals scoring as high-anxious on the MAS is disrupted by failure-induced stress but not necessarily by pain-induced stress. This hypothesis is in contradiction to the traditional drive theory interpretation of the MAS, which considers the MAS to be a measure of drive level.

The present study attempted to empirically test these rival views of the measurement characteristics of the MAS in a verbal learning situation. Results of the experiment provided support for Saltz's hypothesis, with both low-anxious shocked subjects (Ss) and high-anxious failure Ss making significantly more errors than all other groups on paired-associates in which the correct response was dominant. No significant differences in performance were found on paired-associates in which the incorrect response was dominant, and there were no significant differences in the levels of shock that pain-stress Ss agreed to take. Scores on the A-State Scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) reflected performance differences for high-anxious groups but not for low-anxious groups.

Possible reasons for failure to find each of these differences are discussed.