Chunking and Integration: Effects of Stress on the Structuring of Information

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Recent theories maintain that stressors and the reactions they elicit demand part of individuals' limited information-processing capacity. In order to cope with the resulting decrement in processing capacity, individuals narrow their span of attention or restructure information into patterns that are easier to attend to, store, retrieve, and process. The present study examined two forms of simplifying restructuring: chunking and integration. The first two experiments showed that stressed subjects who were given a list of objects and the instruction to divide them into groups yielded fewer, more inclusive groups than their less stressed counterparts. In the third experiment the subjects performed a word identification task which required visual integration. Subjects under stress, integrated and, hence, identified the words sooner than those who were exposed to little or no stress. Implications of these findings for the understanding of the effects of stress on complex cognitive processes, such as problem-solving or decision-making, are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 1991


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