A neural network model of mathematics anxiety: The role of attention

Angela C. Rose, Hany Alashwal, Ahmed A. Moustafa, Gabrielle Weidemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anxiety about performing numerical calculations is becoming an increasingly important issue. Termed mathematics anxiety, this condition negatively impacts performance in numerical tasks which can affect education outcomes and future employment. The disruption account proposes poor performance is due to anxiety disrupting limited attentional and inhibitory resources leaving fewer cognitive resources for the current task. This study provides the first neural network model of math anxiety. The model simulates performance in two commonly-used tasks related to math anxiety: the numerical Stroop and symbolic number comparison. Different model modifications were used to simulate high and low mathanxious conditions by modifying attentional processes and learning; these model modifications address different theories of math anxiety. The model simulations suggest that math anxiety is associated with reduced attention to numerical stimuli. These results are consistent with the disruption account and the attentional control theory where anxiety decreases goal-directed attention and increases stimulus-driven attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0295264
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12 December
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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