Anxiety about specific types of thinking can impact people’s career choices

According to a new study published in Scientific reports.

“The main reason we were interested in doing this study was to start getting a better idea of ​​the influence that feeling anxious about specific types of thinking might have on people,” the author explained. Principal Richard J. Daker, Visiting Scholar. at Georgetown University.

“Our reasoning was that if we found consistent evidence that feeling anxious about a specific type of thinking – mathematical thinking, spatial thinking, creative thinking, etc. – was linked to a tendency to want to avoid situations where people thought that kind of thinking might be necessary, then it might be that those feelings of anxiety are enough to have a big influence on people’s lives, partly dictating how people spend their time and even career paths that they are considering.

“We found that this was the case – feeling particularly anxious about a given type of thinking was consistently associated with a tendency to want to avoid situations and careers that involved the type of thinking in question. Anxiety about thought patterns can shape really important parts of people’s lives.

“For us, this elevates the importance of these ‘cognition-specific anxieties,’ as we call them, and we hope the results will motivate other researchers to join us in trying to better understand and ultimately find ways to combat these cognition-specific anxieties.

For their study, the researchers recruited participants from two sources: Georgetown University’s undergraduate participant pool and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk). They collected data from 331 participants, with an average age of 30.

The researchers gave the participants several questionnaires, including measures of creativity anxiety, math anxiety, spatial anxiety, and general trait anxiety. They also asked participants to rate their interest in 48 different careers and 48 job-related activities, as well as how much they thought each of these careers and activities involved creative thinking, math and spatial reasoning.

To measure creativity anxiety, Daker and his colleagues used the Creativity Anxiety Scale, which includes 16 items that ask participants to rate how anxious they would feel in situations requiring creative thinking. They also included non-creative anxiety control items that presented similar situations without the need to be creative, allowing them to control anxiety toward the non-creative aspects of the situations presented.

Math anxiety was measured using the Single-Item Math Anxiety Scale, which asked participants to rate their math anxiety on a scale of 1 to 10. was measured using the Spatial Anxiety Scale, specifically the Mental Manipulation subscale, which measures anxiety toward mathematics. mentally manipulate objects. The researchers also included a measure of general trait anxiety using the trait subscale of the State Trait Anxiety Inventory.

Daker and his colleagues developed a framework that focused on participants’ perceptions of the extent to which different careers or activities involved specific types of thinking. They found consistent evidence that higher anxiety in one domain (creativity, math, or spatial reasoning) predicted a lower affinity coefficient in that domain, meaning individuals were less interested in activities the more they were perceived to involve this type of thinking. This suggests that feeling anxious about particular types of thinking may play an important role in shaping our interests.

“One of the big lessons we learned from this study is that there are probably a lot of people who don’t even consider specific career paths because they feel like the career involves some type of thought that worries them,” Daker told PsyPost.

It’s a shame, because in this study we also found evidence that people had very different perceptions of each other about how the same career involves one type of thinking. People differed wildly, for example, in the extent to which they thought being a biologist involved creative thinking.

“To us, that means a lot of people probably don’t have the best idea of ​​what certain careers actually entail, and as a result, they may be making career decisions based on misinformation,” Daker added. “Based on our findings, my advice to anyone considering different career options would be to make sure to fully consider a career and talk to the people in it before deciding to rule it out – you may have been written off. a career that would actually be a great fit for you based on an inaccurate understanding of what the job actually entails.

The study provides new insights into how anxiety related to different types of thinking can affect the types of jobs or activities people are interested in. However, the methodology only measures what interests them. The researchers suggest that future research should examine how these types of anxiety influence behavior.

“In the future, researchers could use this framework of affinity coefficients, in addition to the general principle that perceptions can shape what those with cognition-specific anxieties would like to avoid, to begin to build a deeper understanding. comprehensive links between cognition-specific anxieties and avoidance across a wide range of anxiety and pursuit types,” the researchers concluded. people anxious about a particular type of thought will engage in avoidance.”

The study, “Evidence for anxiety-related avoidance tendencies about specific thought types,” was authored by Richard J. Daker, Michael S. Slipenkyj, Adam E. Green, and Ian M. Lyons.

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