A NEW study found that students perform better at math while sitting with good posture and this could have implications for other kinds of performance under pressure.
“For people who are anxious about math, posture makes a giant difference,” said Professor of Health Education Erik Peper. “The slumped-over position shuts them down and their brains do not work as well. They cannot think as clearly.”
Before the study began, students filled out an anonymous questionnaire asking them to rate their anxiety levels while taking exams and performing math; they also described any physical symptoms of stress they experienced during test taking.
One hundred and twenty-five college students were tested to see how well they could perform simple math — subtracting 7 from 843 sequentially for 15 seconds — while either slumped over or sitting up straight with shoulders back and relaxed. Fifty-six percent of the students reported finding it easier to perform the math in the upright position.
According to co-author Associate Professor of Health Education Richard Harvey, slumping over is a defensive posture that can trigger old negative memories in the body and brain. While the students without math anxiety did not report as great a benefit from better posture, they did find that doing math while slumped over was somewhat more difficult.
Peper and Harvey said these findings about body position can help people prepare for many different types of performance under stress, not just math tests. Athletes, musicians and public speakers can all benefit from better posture prior to and during their performance. “It’s about using an empowered position to optimize your focus.”
The study results demonstrated a simple way to improve many aspects of life, especially when stress is involved. “The way we carry ourselves and interact in space influences not only how others perceive us but also how we perceive ourselves,” researchers said.
San Francisco State University