So it is no great revelation you can a fool lot of the people all of the time, and that I assert includes academic psychologists who should know better, given of course a standard knowledge of their discipline, which generally escapes them.
Consider this example:
To human subjects he presented in unpredictable order the symbols T (followed by electric shock) and 4 (not followed by shock). The shock was followed by a large galvanic response (GSR) that was soon conditioned not only by seeing the symbol T, but by anticipating it. From this and subsequent experiments Miller concluded that organisms should "behave 'foresightfully' because fear (i.e. anxiety), would be mediated by cues from a distinctive anticipatory goal response." Miller further concluded that the 'learned drive' of fear or anxiety, as marked by the GSR, obeys the same laws as do overt responses.
In other words, if you suspect that in the future you will engage in something painful, like having a tooth pulled or finding your final grade in a course, you will get a bit anxious about it, which will cause you to attempt to avoid the inevitable, and if successful will reward or reinforce the anxiety. Common sense I'd say.
Now compare this experiment with Antonio Damasio’s IGT (Iowa Gaming Task) experiment performed in the early 90's, where an individual again is confronted with a succession of symbols (in this case, markings on a card), and with unpredictable aversive consequences, in this case large negative card values occurring from time to time. If you ever played poker, that was the essence of the experiment. The experiment measured the SCR, a dependent variable equivalent to the GSR. If it is assumed that unexpected 'bad information' is painful as well, then both experiments assume equivalence. In other words, get a bad card, and you feel a bit anxious about it. Damasio concluded that anxiety or arousal helped you make better choices than merely avoiding a bad one, and to demonstrate it charted out a neural mechanics for the whole thing that would have done Rube Goldberg proud.
In spite of his confidence, psychologists who have replicated the IGT experiment have found no evidence that anxiety makes you think better, but they have forgotten Neal Miller's experiment, and the work that followed that would have forewarned them of Damasio's hooey of a hypothesis.
A few side notes on the Miller and Damasio experiments:
One way to ascertain the role of avoidance is to simply examine whether elevated autonomic arousal occurs under response contingencies that either eliminate the ability to avoid or obviate the need to avoid. If results under a response contingency are all bad and unavoidable, then we have Seligman’s learned helplessness, and if all results are good and thus create no need to avoid, then we have Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘flow’ response. Both are marked by low autonomic arousal as marked by a reduction in SCR and a corresponding lack of reported tension, anxiety, or fear. Thus it may be construed that avoidance is an essential function of autonomic arousal. This of course does not directly challenge Damasio’s position, but raises the avoidance hypothesis front and center as an alternative explanation for his findings.
Miller, N. E. (1971) Selected Papers, Atherton, Chicago