Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Thomas V. Petros


It has been demonstrated that an individual's level of arousal has a significant effect on their ability to perform a specific tasks. This arousal may be due to stable trait characteristics such as those measured by the impulsivity subscale of the Eysenck Introversion Extroversion Scale or transient state effects like those caused by consumption of stimulants such as caffeine. Manipulation of trait and state arousal have been shown to cause significant effects on an individual's ability to perform various cognitive tasks such as to remember word lists or prose passages.

In this experiment, 79 male subjects listened to three expository prose passages and three narrative prose passages, which had been for scoring purposes, previously divided into idea units by a group of independent raters. After hearing each passage, subjects were instructed to write down as much from the story as possible using their own words. These recalls were then scored as to the presence of the gist of the idea units recalled.

Results from this experiment indicate that no significant effects of caffeine were obtained. The pattern of the results do follow the pattern of results obtained in previous research involving caffeine and memory for prose passages.

The expected results involving impulsivity, passage genre, and the importance level of the idea units in the story, were obtained. These results lend support to the growing body of literature that reports low impulsive subjects being better at certain tasks than high impulsive subjects, narrative passages being more easily remembered then expository passages, and the more important idea units of a passage being the most easy to remember.

A general conclusion can be made that the failure to obtain the expected effects of caffeine on prose memory may be due in part to the specific characteristics of the stimulus materials. Other explanations involving the specific interactions between the stimulus materials and the arousing properties of caffeine were advanced.

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