multidimensional theory of anxiety (a complete guide) | optimistic minds (2023)

In this guide, we will discuss the multidimensional fear theory and other related theories that explain the connection between the effects of fear on performance.

What is the Multidimensional Anxiety Theory?

According to the Oxford reference, the multidimensional anxiety theory is the “theory predicting that an increase in cognitive anxiety (worry) has a negative effect on performance. The theory is based on the premise that state anxiety is multidimensional, with its two components (cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety) affecting performance differently.

The multidimensional fear theory has been widely used in sports, especially athletic performance.

Studies have based his theory on the link between performance and physiological arousal, making Marten's multidimensional fear theory and the catastrophe model proposed by Hardy and Fazey (1987) two of the most widely accepted theories in recent years

There are some key terms that we need to keep in mind when talking about Multidimensional Anxiety Theory and they are:

  • Anxiety: Described as an emotional state characterized by apprehension and tension.
  • Cognitive Anxiety: Associated with worrying and negative perceptions or thoughts about personal performance.
  • Somatic Anxiety: Can be described as a change in perceived physiological arousal.

sports fearIn competitive situations, there are often adjustments that can ultimately lead to reduced performance by the athlete. Most research has examined this relationship very closely, but we will also discuss a study that was conducted on musicians' performance.

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How many people start worrying about things that don't exist now but will "exist" in the future.

What does the multidimensional fear theory predict?

Multidimensional Anxiety Theory predicts that increases in cognitive anxiety or worry negatively impact performance. Multidimensional anxiety theory supports the premise that state anxiety is multidimensional and that the two components of performance anxiety, namely cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety, affect performance differently.

Previous fear-performance relationship theory

For almost a decade, the most widely held theory was the inverted U hypothesis, used to explain the relationship between anxiety and performance, in which performance is poor when there is lower anxiety level, optimal performance when moderate Anxiety level is present and when the anxiety is beyond the norm. optimal level shows a poorer performance result.

However, scrutiny and criticism of this theory has increased, for example Randle and Weinberg (1997) pointed out that "this criticism has focused on the lack of theoretical basis to explain the inverted U relationship, the lack of accuracy in measuring points along the arousal continuum, it fails to account for the multidimensional nature of fear and a number of methodological and statistical limitations.

Here the gap allowed the introduction of other theories, such as catastrophe theory, inversion theory, psychic energy theory, and multidimensional fear theory.

We know from the literature that this theory “is based on the assumption that competitive anxiety consists of two distinct parts; a cognitive component and a somatic component, both of which have different effects on performance.

Therefore, theoretically, the components can be manipulated independently” (McNally, 2002).

They explain how the cognitive component can be defined as "negative expectations and concerns about performance and the possible consequences of failure".

Instead, the somatic component is directly related to the physiological effects of anxiety that most of us are already familiar with, "such as increased autonomic arousal with negative physiological effects such as palpitations, muscle tension, shortness of breath." Morris, Davis & Hutchings, 1981 cited by McNally, 2002) and even nausea in some cases (Harris & Rovins, 1981 cited by McNally, 2002).

Additionally, the development of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2, or CSAI-2, is believed to mark the pinnacle of acceptance of the multidimensional theory of anxiety in the field of sport psychology. Martens and his colleagues proposed that somatic anxiety exhibits an inverted U pattern with performance, while cognitive anxiety exhibits a negative linear relationship (McNally, 2002).

Using the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2, or CSAI-2, Martens and colleagues administered their inventory to a sample of athletes forty-eight hours, twenty-four hours, two hours, and five minutes (time-to-event paradigm) before a competitive event. demonstrate the dissociation between somatic and cognitive anxiety.

They proposed that the cognitive component was stable prior to the star, but the somatic component began to increase prior to the associated event.

Other researchers, such as Parfitt & Hardy (1987), have suggested similar previous findings, finding "a relationship between the two subcomponents to the extent that there were positive effects associated with cognitive anxiety in the days leading up to a pivotal event, as somatic anxiety was its peak." a low level

Furthermore, they found a combination of negative and positive effects for somatic anxiety on a variety of performance-related activities just before the main event when cognitive anxiety was at elevated levels” (McNally, 2002).

In addition to being used to measure athletic performance, this model was also applied to a study of musical performance, as this environment is also considered to be highly competitive and anxiety-provoking.

Miller & Chesky's (2004) study raises awareness of perceived levels of anxiety in a highly competitive environment and how this affects performance.

They implemented multidimensional anxiety theory to describe the relationship between anxiety and performance in college music students.

They recruited 71 college musicians from the University of North Texas who volunteered to participate in the study.

They implemented four different assessment tools, including the Competitive Trait Anxiety Inventory-2 (CTAI-2), a modified version of the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 (CSAI-2), and a subjective self-assessment of performance.

They attempted to assess performance anxiety using CTAI-2 and CSAI-2, using CTAI-2 as a benchmark assessment to measure trait anxiety as a predisposition to the perception of threatening or non-threatening environmental stimuli.

Instead, the CSAI-2 was used to measure and track state anxiety as an existing/current emotional state characterized by feelings of apprehension and tension associated with physiological arousal.

Their results showed that cognitive intensity was greater than somatic intensity, and both cognitive and somatic intensity were associated with different responses to anxiety.

This can sensitize teachers and clinicians to more effectively help or treat students with stage fright.

with the help ofself-regulationYou can control your fear or anxiety even in the absence of people.

The Disaster Model

The catastrophe model (catastrophe theory) was first proposed by the French mathematician Rene Thom in 1975 and later adopted and introduced into the behavioral sciences by Hardy & Fazey (1987).

This model, in contrast to the multidimensional theory of fear based on the fact that fear has two subcomponents, as we commented, chose to use physiological arousal instead.

As McNally notes, “when measured by heart rate, both follow identical time patterns for, say, a critical competitive event.

However, there are a number of differences between the two in terms of their impact on performance.

It has been argued that physiological arousal can have a direct impact on performance through the suppression of crucial physiological and cognitive resources (e.g. Hardy et al., 1994)”.

In addition, it has been suggested that since physiological arousal can be perceived as either negative or positive, it may have an impact on performance.

Rather, he states that “somatic anxiety affects performance only when the magnitude of the somatic response is so great that the athlete becomes overly engaged and distracted from their perceived physiological state (e.g., Martens et al., 1990 ).) ".

In his model, when a person is overly concerned about their performance (cognitive performance), a "catastrophe" occurs and physiological arousal tends to reach a threshold, resulting in a deterioration in the person's performance.

On the other hand, if the person has low cognitive anxiety, which simply means they are not concerned about their performance, their physiological arousal follows the inverted U pattern.

Additionally, this model can predict how when physiological arousal is low in the days leading up to a major event or competition, cognitive anxiety can improve an athlete's performance compared to baseline data (from training sessions).

Why is this Multidimensional Anxiety Theory blog important?

We discuss how multidimensional fear theory has been widely used to explain that state anxiety affects performance, not only in the athletic setting but also in music, as noted above.

Additionally, it is important to note that this is not the only approach or theory available to assess performance anxiety. We also review the catastrophe model and mention other existing approaches to predicting low or high performance.

It is also worth noting how anxiety is believed to be associated and associated with activities of daily living, but not often associated with athletic performance, music, or other contexts where there are complex human and behavioral factors, as well as high expectations of positive outcomes . . .

We now know that fear can manifest itself in a variety of settings, and for top athletes, it can affect them in ways that make them win or lose a competition.

Please don't hesitate to comment in the comment section below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Multidimensional Anxiety Theory

Who Developed the Multidimensional Anxiety Theory?

Multidimensional Anxiety Theory was proposed by Martens, Vealey, and Burton in 1990.

What is cognitive anxiety?

Cognitive anxiety refers to the mental manifestations of fear (thoughts) that occur during anxious responses such as worry or concern.

What is the catastrophic fear model?

The catastrophic fear model suggests 4 specific relationships between cognitive fear, physiological arousal, and performance.

It has been suggested that when cognitive anxiety levels are high, there is a higher level of physiological arousal, leading to a catastrophic drop in athletic performance.

What is competitive state anxiety?

Competitive anxiety occurs when the demands of the sport are greater than an athlete's perceived ability (

What is multidimensional learning?

Multidimensional learning is described as an interactive method of teaching and learning that enables students to "think" to generate or construct information.

This model aims to integrate different memory strategies to facilitate the learning process, relying heavily on visual aids such as illustrations and graphs.

Literature Recommendations


Oxford reference

Randle, S & Weinberg, R. (1997) Anxiety and Multidimensional Performance: An Exploratory Study of the Zone of Optimal Functioning Hypothesis. the sports psychologist

McNally, I (2002) Contrasting concepts of competitive state anxiety in sport: multidimensional fear and catastrophe theories. The online journal for sport psychology.

Miller, S.R. and Chesky, Kris. (2004). Multidimensional Anxiety Theory: An Assessment and Relationships Between the Intensity and Direction of Cognitive Anxiety, Somatic Anxiety, and Self-Confidence in Relation to Different Performance Demands in College Music Students. Medical problems of artists. 19.12-20.

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