Evaluation apprehension model

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The evaluation apprehension theory was proposed by Nickolas B. Cottrell in 1972. He argued that we quickly learn that the social rewards and punishments (for example, in the form of approval and disapproval) that we receive from other people are based on their evaluations of us. On this basis, our arousal may be modulated. In other words, performance will be enhanced or impaired only in the presence of persons who can approve or disapprove our actions.

For example, a person who is trying out for cheerleading will feel a heightened sense of arousal leading to incompetence not just because others are around, but because of the fear that others are observing and ridiculing them.

Feelings of concern about evaluation nearly always occur when in the presence of others. However, in 1968, Cottrell tried to separate these variables in an experiment.[1] He found that there was no social facilitation effect on three well-learned tasks performed by a participant when there were two other persons (part of the study) blindfolded and supposedly preparing for a perception study. The participants would perform the same as the participants who were to perform the three well-learned tasks alone. Dominant responses (sharper and quicker) were given mainly by participants who had to perform the three tasks in the presence of spectators who seemed interested and who were able to see the participant perform the tasks.[1]

People may experience evaluation apprehension when they are part of a negatively stereotyped group and involved in a stereotype-linked activity. For example, women taking a math test may not perform to their full potential because of concerns regarding women's stereotyped difficulties with math. In this situation, evaluation apprehension is called stereotype threat. Stereotype threat can also occur in private, whereas evaluation apprehension cannot.

Evaluation apprehension can affect subjects' behavior in psychological experiments, and can lead to invalid casual interference. Rosenberg defined evaluation apprehension as "an active, anxiety-toned concern that he [the subject] win a positive evaluation from the experimenter, or at least that he provide no grounds for a negative one."[2] As a result, subjects have conformed less in conformity studies and exhibited quicker conditioning in conditioning studies as part of a positive self-presentation.[3]

Other research on evaluation apprehension has shown that, when they must make a choice, subjects are more concerned with presenting themselves in a favorable light (this has been called the apprehensive hypothesis, the "good subject role").[4]

Concern with giving a positive self-presentation is also implicit in the social desirability bias. This bias is the tendency to give the "socially desired response" (e.g., a response that would typically be considered "well-adjusted") in answering items on personality measures. This response set is important for personality researchers because it threatens valid interpretation of test results.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cottrell, Nickolas B.; Wack, Dennis L.; Sekerak, Gary J.; Rittle, Robert H. (1968). "Social facilitation of dominant responses by presence of others". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 9 (3): 245–50. 
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Milton J. (1965). "When dissonance fails: On eliminating evaluation apprehension from attitude measurement". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 1 (1): 28–42. 
  3. ^ Weber, Stephen J.; Cook, Thomas D. (1972). "Subject effects in laboratory research: An examination of subject roles, demand characteristics, and valid inference". Psychological Bulletin 77 (4): 273–295. 
  4. ^ Rosnow, Ralph L.; Goodstadt, Barry E.; Gitter, A. George (1973). "More on the social psychology of the experiment: When compliance turns to self-defense". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27 (3): 337–343. 


  • Cottrell, N.B. (1972). "Social Facilitation". In C. McClintock (ed.), Experimental Social Psychology (pp. 185–236). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • Fein, S., Kassin, S., & Markus, H.R. (2008). Social Psychology. Houghton Mifflin Company