Date of Award
Career indecision is a stage most individuals pass through during their lifetime, but it is often accompanied by anxiety. While anxiety can have a positive influence on decision making by focusing attention and cognitive resources, excess anxiety can disrupt the career decision-making process. Existing literature links anxiety to cognitive flexibility, an individual’s ability to efficiently switch between thoughts and ideas and adapt to evolving situations, with young adults higher in cognitive flexibility typically experiencing less anxiety than their less flexible peers. However, no studies to date have examined cognitive flexibility as it relates to career indecision or career-indecision-related anxiety. This study examines the relationships between cognitive flexibility, career indecision, and anxiety in undergraduate students. 156 undergraduate students (72% female, 91% Caucasian, 63% juniors and seniors) completed an online Qualtrics survey assessing career indecision, career anxiety, cognitive flexibility, and general demographic information including academic trajectory, career confidence, and personal characteristics. The previously documented relationship between career indecision and anxiety was supported, but the discovery that both career indecision and anxiety share significant relationships with cognitive flexibility augments prior research by examining cognitive flexibility in the context of career decision-making. While cognitive flexibility did relate to both career-indecision-related anxiety and career indecision, it did not directly mediate the relationship between these two variables, and once its relationship with career indecision was partialled, it no longer significantly correlated with career-indecision-related anxiety. This suggests cognitive flexibility could serve as a mechanism to promote career decision-making, thereby reducing career-indecision-related anxiety.
Flandermeyer, Emily, "What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? Cognitive Flexibility Influences Career Decision Making and Related Anxiety" (2019). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 477.