The present study examines whether or not a person's anxiety level might be linked to their learning performance. Many studies in the past have examined math and test anxiety, but the present study will examine the effects of death anxiety on learning performance. Individual's anxiety will attempt to be induced through fear of death. Participants were presented a set of four symptoms, similar to Gluck and Bower's 1988 category learning study. The participants were asked whether or not they think the symptoms of the patient are positive for COVID-19 or positive for the flu. The hypothesis was that there would be a negative correlation between death anxiety and learning performance (i.e. participants who score high in death anxiety will score with lower accuracy in the learning task). The signal detection model was used to analyze the data for accuracy levels, the ability to discriminate between categories (d'), and the response bias towards COVID-19 (β).

The present study found results to support the hypothesis that high death anxiety caused lower performance levels. Results found that death anxiety is a predictor of classification of bias towards a more serious disease in classification. This bias seems to be unrelated to state anxiety, or STAI scores. The signal detection model indicates a predicted effect on discriminability index, which negatively correlated to pre-experiment death anxiety levels. Additionally, although the predicted response bias showed up in the data, it was not correlated with death anxiety levels. There was also no relation to political affiliation, which was thought to bias beliefs about COVID-19.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Bohil, Corey


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences



Degree Program

Interdisciplinary Studies



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date


Included in

Psychology Commons