Let’s Fall In Love : What Influences Test Performance

Test takers and administers alike may dream their test scores reflect pure performance, but in reality they are influenced by many other factors. These include things like gender, age, health, educational and home background, and even being in love. In what ways if any experiencing feelings of lust, infatuation or love impact test performance? Should undergrads fall head over heels or avoid it altogether? Let’s find out.

Almost everyone is familiar with the feeling of infatuation, the “All-consuming euphoria similar to recreational drug use “ which saps one’s cognitive functioning and compels to engage in risky behavior for the obtention of the next adrenaline rush. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D., is inclined to think infatuation is a mix of lust and pure dopamine brain activity[1]. Dopamine plays a role in “euphoria, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and a rush of motivation” , which closely relate to the experience of infatuation. It has a widespread involvement in the neurochemistry of learning, attention, self-confidence, goal-direction, reinforcement. Since infatuation creates a perfect “dopamine storm” in the brain, its effect will be observed on attentional and learning tasks such as test taking.

Intuitively, one would assume that the scatterbrain, intrusive thought pattern of an infatuated person would not favor cognitive tasks performance, however research from Foster and colleagues points to the contrary. They investigated the effects of love and lust on performance, namely on creativity and analytical tasks. The results showed that :

“Love enhances global processing and creative thinking whereas sex enhances local processing and analytic thinking. Thus, contrary to the intuitive notion of creativity and analytical thought as fixed human capacities or stable personality traits, they can easily be changed by subtle cues in the environment or by mere thinking about certain situations.” [2]

In conclusion, it would seem merely thinking about a romantic or sexual encounter alone could impact our performance on test taking. In light of those findings, as you are there waiting anxiously for the exam paper, remember this simple limerick ;

think erotic before arithmetic, passion before dissertation.

[1] The Plunge of Pleasure : Like all roller-coaster rides, dopamine highs have their dangers, By Deborah Blum, published on September 1, 1997 — last reviewed on June 14, 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200909/the-plunge-pleasure

[2] Lust love and Creativity, Scott Barry Kaufman Ph. D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/200909/love-lust-and-creativity

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