Impulsivity, caffeine, and proofreading: A test of the Easterbrook hypothesis

Kristen J. Anderson*, William Revelle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


J. A. Easterbrook's (1959) suggestion that arousal is inversely related to the range of cue utilization is frequently cited as an explanation for the curvilinear relationship between arousal and performance. As a test of this hypothesis, 60 undergraduates who varied in their impulsivity level were given caffeine or placebo and then asked to proofread several passages. It was predicted that high arousal would reduce sensitivity to interword errors, which require a broad range of cue utilization, but that the observed levels of arousal would not affect sensitivity to intraword errors, which require a minimal range of cue utilization. A significant crossover interaction between impulsivity and drug for interword errors indicated that caffeine increased the error detection rate of the less aroused/more impulsive Ss but lowered the error detection rate of the more aroused/less impulsive Ss. Results support the suggestion that arousal directly effects the capacity for simultaneous information processing, independent of its effects on performance speed. (29 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)614-624
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1982


  • caffeine, proofreading, college students, test of J. A. Easterbrook's cue utilization explanation of arousal effects on performance
  • impulsivity &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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