Date of Conferral







Thomas Edman


Mental rotation (MR) is the ability to mentally shift one's visual perspective of any object by changing the orientation of a mental image of that object. Research into the effects of stress on MR could be used to help improve understanding of a variety of visual-spatial tasks performed in hyper-vigilance situations. However, until the present study, there has been no research on the effects of stress on MR. The Yerkes-Dodson Law predicts performance will be improved when an individual is exposed to mild to moderate stress. The purpose of this study was to answer three research questions. The questions examined whether stress affects MR performance; if MR performance is improved by stress, impaired, or unchanged; and, if the effect of stress is related to the degree of MR task difficulty. Twenty healthy adult participants, aged 18 to 65, were recruited from the Savannah, Georgia area. The participants were divided into 2 groups of 10: stress and no-stress groups. The stress group was exposed to a math task under time pressure. The no-stress group was given a simple counting task to do at their own pace. Heart rate during testing was measured for both groups. "L-shaped" objects of varying angular orientation were presented on a computer screen immediately following the counting tasks. Participants choose whether the pair of objects were different mirror images of the other, or the same object, only rotated differently. A 2 x2 mixed repeated measures ANOVA indicated significant differences in heart rate between groups following exposure to the counting tasks. A 2-sample t test showed no significant differences between groups for MR performance. Social change implications include more efficient use of employee training in mild- to moderately- stressful jobs that require MR skills.