Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

Test Performance and the Medium: Unearthing Differences that Make a Differences

This study will attempt to provide an explanation for the disparity that exists between the literature that purports no difference between individuals' performance when taking paper-and-pencil versus computer-based tests, with the literature that purports that high levels of computer anxiety will influence computer-based performance. The question is asked, how can the findings that show high levels of computer anxiety negatively influence performance co-exist with findings that show that there is no difference between an individual's performance when taking a paper-and-pencil versus a computer-based exam? This research posits that although there may be no difference in test performance between pencil-and-paper and computer-based tests for simple questions, there will be a test performance difference for questions that are complex. Thus, we also ask what is the emergent phenomenon that is occuring that causes computer anxiety to reduce performance on complex questions administered via the computer? To explain this phenomenon, we will draw upon the cognitive psychology literature, specifically the literature regarding cognitive capacity, to show that some of an individual's cognitive capacity will be utilized by emotional arousal (e.g. computer anxiety), thereby increasing the amount of cognitive load on an individual's working memory. The increase in cognitive load on working memory, namely computer anxiety, should not influence an individual's computer-based test performance for simple questions, however, it is posited that it will influence an individual's computer-based test performance for questions that are complex.