Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do You Experience Decision Anxiety?

By Melissa Grovijohn

Do you ever find anxiety to be affecting your decisions? Anxiety can cause a person to do things that he/she normally wouldn't.  Or at least put pressure on you to give in to what is bothering you. While few people enjoy being anxious, most have experienced at some point, and anxiety can be a very persuasive influence on our decision making.

So what is anxiety exactly? The article "Anxiety and Social Explanation: Some Anxiety about Anxiety" says that "anxiety is a psychic condition of heightened sensitivity to some perceived threat, risk, peril or danger" (Hunt, 1999). Anxiety causes people to be afraid of things that are unknown. Anxiety can easily occur before a first test in a class because it is hard to know how hard a teacher's tests are before you take the first one.

Anxiety can cause you to look outside of yourself for the answers of how you can solve a problem. When people do not experience much anxiety, they often rely on their own previous notions because they feel comfortable with the situation. However, if a person comes across a foreign situation that causes anxiety it would benefit them to look to external sources so that they can consider all the information available to them (Smith and Richards, 1967). For example, if a person has dealt with the loss grandparents but then has a friend die, the loss of a friend is different and so she might have to get extra help dealing with this new type of loss.

Anxiety relates to persuasion in terms of decision making. Emotional priming and framing can influence a person to either be swayed or not be swayed by anxiety. Emotional priming leads people to keep what they have known when anxiety comes. However, when they don't have an opinion they can be swayed one way or another. Framing is the opposite, as anxiety will lessen the firm grip on what people already think is true while if they did not know anything they will follow what they have in the past (Smith and Richards, 1967).

The level of anxiety can influence how persuasion affects a person. Studies show that people with low-self esteem are particularly susceptible to persuasion. These people are called "socially anxious" and are generally very concerned about receiving approval from others. People who are highly anxious are likely to express moderate opinions in order to avoid conflict. Moderately anxious individuals are not as concerned about the possibility of conflict and stay with what they believe. People with low anxiety may be fine with conflict and will stay true to themselves (Sears, 1967).

So hopefully now you have a greater understanding of what anxiety is and how it can influence decision making. If you do not want anxiety to affect your decisions, try to relax and pray that God would help you make the decision that is right for you.


Hunt, A. (1999, Spring99). Anxiety and Social Explanation: Some Anxieties about Anxiety, Journal of Social History, 32(3), 509.

Sears, D. (1967, October). Social anxiety, opinion structure, and opinion change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7(21), 142-151. Doi:10.1037/h0021229

Smith, K& Richards, B. (1967, January), Effects of a Rational Appeal and of Anxiety on Conformity Behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5(1), 122-126.

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