skip to main content


Title: The dynamic experience of taking an examination: Ever changing cortisol and expectancy for success
Abstract Background

This study examined the relations between students' expectancies for success and a physiological component of test anxiety, salivary cortisol, during an authentic testing setting.

Aims

The aim of the study was to better understand the connection between shifts in students' control appraisals and changes in the physiological component of test anxiety.

Sample

The study comprised 45 undergraduate engineering majors in the United States.

Methods

Survey data concerning students' expectancy for success and saliva samples were taken before, during and after the practice midterm examination prior to their actual in‐class examination.

Results

Students' expectancy for success declined during the examination while cortisol levels declined from the beginning to middle of the examination and began to increase again as a function of time. Although students' initial levels of expectancy for success and cortisol were not correlated, there was a negative relation between change in cortisol and change in expectancy for success.

Conclusions

Our study demonstrates a relation between salivary cortisol, a physiological component of test anxiety and students' expectancy for success in an authentic testing context. Most students saw a decrease in cortisol during the examination, suggesting anticipatory anxiety prior to the test and a return to homeostasis as the examination progressed. Some students, however, did not see a declination in cortisol, suggesting they may not have recovered from pre‐examination anxiety. The negative relation between change in cortisol and expectancy for success suggests that students who had the greatest decrease in expectancy for success saw the smallest recovery in cortisol.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
2120451 1661100
NSF-PAR ID:
10480672
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Date Published:
Journal Name:
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Volume:
93
Issue:
S1
ISSN:
0007-0998
Page Range / eLocation ID:
195 to 210
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Maternal prenatal psychosocial stress is associated with adverse hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPAA) function among infants. Although the biological mechanisms influencing this process remain unknown, altered DNA methylation is considered to be one potential mechanism. We investigated associations between maternal prenatal psychological distress, infant salivary DNA methylation, and stress physiology at 12 months. Mother's distress was measured via depression and anxiety in early and late pregnancy in a cohort of 80 pregnant adolescents. Maternal hair cortisol was collected during pregnancy. Saliva samples were collected from infants at 12 months to quantify DNA methylation of three stress‐related genes (FKBP5,NR3C1,OXTR) (n = 62) and diurnal cortisol (n = 29). Multivariable linear regression was used to test for associations between prenatal psychological distress, and infant DNA methylation and cortisol. Hair cortisol concentrations in late pregnancy were negatively associated with two sites ofFKBP5(site 1:B = −22.33,p = .003; site 2:B = −15.60,p = .012). Infants of mothers with elevated anxiety symptoms in late pregnancy had lower levels ofOXTR2CpG2 methylation (B = −2.17,p = .03) and higher evening salivary cortisol (B = 0.41,p = .03). Furthermore,OXTR2methylation was inversely associated with evening cortisol (B = −0.14,p‐value ≤ .001). Our results are, to our knowledge, the first evidence that the methylation of the oxytocin receptor may contribute to the regulation of HPAA during infancy.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS

    Chinese preschoolers displayed lower overall positive and negative expressions relative to their US counterparts without considering situational contexts.

    Chinese preschoolers displayed similar levels of emotion expressions as their US counterparts during an achievement‐related challenge salient to their social‐cultural environment.

    Chinese preschoolers are particularly responsive to achievement‐related challenges, relative to other emotion‐challenging situations that are less culturally salient.

    No cortisol increase was observed in any of the emotion‐challenging paradigms among US preschoolers.

    Children's emotion expression and biological reactivity may be most responsive to challenges relevant to their socio‐cultural environments.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Experiencing stress before an event can influence how that event is later remembered. In the current study, we examine how individual differences in one's physiological response to a stressor are related to changes to underlying brain states and memory performance. Specifically, we examined how changes in intrinsic amygdala connectivity relate to positive and negative memory performance as a function of stress response, defined as a change in cortisol. Twenty‐five participants underwent a social stressor before an incidental emotional memory encoding task. Cortisol samples were obtained before and after the stressor to measure individual differences in stress response. Three resting state scans (pre‐stressor, post‐stressor/pre‐encoding and post‐encoding) were conducted to evaluate pre‐ to post‐stressor and pre‐ to post‐encoding changes to intrinsic amygdala connectivity. Analyses examined relations between greater cortisol changes and connectivity changes. Greater cortisol increases were associated with a greaterdecreasein prefrontal‐amygdala connectivity following the stressor and a reversal in the relation between prefrontal‐amygdala connectivity and negative vs. positive memory performance. Greater cortisol increases were also associated with a greaterincreasein amygdala connectivity with a number of posterior sensory regions following encoding. Consistent with prior findings in non‐stressed individuals, pre‐ to post‐encoding increases in amygdala‐posterior connectivity were associated with greater negative relative to positive memory performance, although this was specific to lateral rather than medial posterior regions and to participants with the greatest cortisol changes. These findings suggest that stress response is associated with changes in intrinsic connectivity that have downstream effects on the valence of remembered emotional content.

     
    more » « less
  4. ABSTRACT Objective

    A holistic understanding of the naturalistic dynamics among physical activity, sleep, emotions, and purpose in life as part of a system reflecting wellness is key to promoting well-being. The main aim of this study was to examine the day-to-day dynamics within this wellness system.

    Methods

    Using self-reported emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, anxiousness) and physical activity periods collected twice per day, and daily reports of sleep and purpose in life via smartphone experience sampling, more than 28 days as college students (n= 226 young adults; mean [standard deviation] = 20.2 [1.7] years) went about their daily lives, we examined day-to-day temporal and contemporaneous dynamics using multilevel vector autoregressive models that consider the network of wellness together.

    Results

    Network analyses revealed that higher physical activity on a given day predicted an increase of happiness the next day. Higher sleep quality on a given night predicted a decrease in negative emotions the next day, and higher purpose in life predicted decreased negative emotions up to 2 days later. Nodes with the highest centrality were sadness, anxiety, and happiness in the temporal network and purpose in life, anxiety, and anger in the contemporaneous network.

    Conclusions

    Although the effects of sleep and physical activity on emotions and purpose in life may be shorter term, a sense of purpose in life is a critical component of wellness that can have slightly longer effects, bleeding into the next few days. High-arousal emotions and purpose in life are central to motivating people into action, which can lead to behavior change.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract Objective

    Research on personality development has traditionally focused on rank‐order stability and mean‐level change in the context of personality traits. The present study expands this approach to the examination of change and stability at another level of personality—narrative identity—by focusing on autobiographical reasoning. Drawing from theory in personality and developmental science, we examine stability and change in exploratory processing and positive and negative self‐event connections.

    Method

    We take advantage of a longitudinal study of emerging adult personality and identity development, which includes four waves of data across 4 years, examining reasoning in two domains of identity, academics, and romance (n = 1520 narratives;n = 176–638 participants, depending on the analysis).

    Results

    We found moderate rank‐order stability in autobiographical reasoning, but more so for exploratory processing than self‐event connections. We found mean‐level increases for exploratory processing in the context of romance and stability in the context of academics. For self‐event connections, we saw a decrease for positive connections, and for negative connections about romance, with stability for negative connections about academics.

    Conclusions

    Implications include developmental differences in types of reasoning as well as the sensitivity of narrative identity to revealing the contextual nature of personality development.

     
    more » « less