Stress and Performance

Yerkes-Dodson Law Many people claim they work best under pressure. This is likely both true and false…depending on several conditions. Stress can lead to improved performance; however, this relationship only applies to certain levels of stress. The Yerkes-Dodson Law, discovered over 100 years by Psychologists Robert Yerkes and J. Dodson, informs us that there is an optimum level for every kind of task. Further research by others have supported this claim. Nevertheless, after a certain point, stress does have deleterious effects and actually reduces the desired outcome. This is the right side of the bell curve. How much stress is good? I wish there was a simple universal answer; however, the level depends on the individual, perceptions of what is stressful, the types of stressors, and the nature of the task itself. Bottom Line: Low amounts of stress can help one perform better, but after a certain point, it is destructive. Most people intuitively know when they have become overwhelmed. When this happens to you, look for ways to reduce or remove the stressors so you can once again be more productive. Reference Yerkes, R.M. & Dodson, J.D. (1908) The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18, 459-482.