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Being observed caused physiological stress leading to poorer face recognition

Hills, P J and Boobyer, Charlotte (2019) Being observed caused physiological stress leading to poorer face recognition.
Being observed when completing physical and mental tasks alters how successful people are at completing them. This has been explained in terms of evaluation apprehension, drive theory, and due to the effects of stress caused by being observed. In three experiments, we explore how being observed affects participants' ability to recognise faces as it relates to the aforementioned theories - easier face recognition tasks should be completed with more success under observation relative to harder tasks. In Experiment 1, we found that being observed during the learning phase of an old/new recognition paradigm caused participants to be less accurate at the test phase than not being observed. Being observed at test did not affect accuracy. We replicated these findings in an line-up type task in Experiment 2. Finally, in Experiment 3, we assessed whether these effects were due to the difficulty of the task or due to the physiological stress being observed caused. We found that while observation caused physiological stress, it did not relate to accuracy. Moderately difficult tasks (upright unfamiliar face recognition and inverted familiar face recognition) were detrimentally affected by being observed, whereas easy (upright familiar face recognition) and difficult tasks (inverted unfamiliar face recognition) were unaffected by this manipulation. We explain these results in terms of the direct effects being observed has on task performance for moderately difficult tasks and discuss the implications of these results to cognitive psychological experimentation.
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