The Yerkes-Dodson Law

William Meller - The Yerkes-Dodson Law
The Yerkes–Dodson law dictates that performance increases with physiological or mental arousal, but only up to a point.

Yerkes-Dodson law was developed by psychologists Robert M. Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson in 1908. 

At the beginning of the research in the lab, according to Very Well Mind, they discovered that mild electrical shocks could be used to motivate rats to complete a maze, but when the electrical shocks became too strong, the rats would scurry around in random directions to escape.

According to the law, performance increases with physiological and mental arousal, but only to a certain point. The performance of an individual decreases when the level of arousal becomes too high. 

With higher levels of arousal, the process is typically illustrated graphically as a bell-shaped curve that increases and then decreases. 

William Meller - The Yerkes-Dodson Law

According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, stress and performance have an empirical relationship, and the optimal level of stress corresponds to the optimal level of performance.  

How do you determine what level of arousal is ideal? 

Depending on the task, this can vary.

"... The anxiety you experience before an exam is one example of how the Yerkes-Dodson Law operates. An optimal level of stress can help you focus on the test and remember the information that you studied, but too much test anxiety can impair your ability to concentrate and make it more difficult to remember the correct answers. Athletic performance offers another great example of the Yerkes-Dodson Law. When a player is poised to make an important move, like making a basket during a basketball game, an ideal level of arousal can sharpen their performance and enable them to make the shot. When a player gets too stressed out, however, they might instead "choke" and miss the shot...." - Very Well Mind

When arousal is very high or very low, performance tends to suffer.

An optimal arousal level depends on the complexity and difficulty of the task.

According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, a simple task is best performed when arousal levels are relatively high (to increase motivation), while complex tasks are best performed when arousal levels are low (to facilitate concentration).

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