The Loh Down On Science

A simple technique can turn anxiety and stress into success

Figure 1

Image courtesy of Creswell and others, PLOS, 2013.

RAT Score represents subjects' problem-solving ability. You can see that naturally highly stressed people (black bars) benefited the most from self-affirmation.

Is stress affecting your performance?  Here's help!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Let’s say you’re about to take up a stressful problem-solving task.  How do you make sure that you complete the job successfully in spite of your nerves?  Give yourself a mental pat on the back before you start.  Go ahead and tell yourself how good you are!  Simplistic?  Narcissistic?  Maybe.  But what you just did is known as self-affirmation—and it can help you.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University tested subjects on verbal problem solving.  Given three words, subjects had to come up with a logical fourth.  So given "flake, mobile, and cone"?  The answer is "snow."  An evaluator timed people and announced, "Correct" or "Incorrect" with each answer.  Stressful!

Half the students were told to use self-affirmation beforehand.  And?  They did significantly better than the control group!  Which suggests that we may be able to use self-affirmation to counter the effects of stress and thus improve our performance.

Works for me. Because like Stuart Smalley, I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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CORRECTION:  Please note that the previous post used an incorrect graph for the research study being described.


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