The Loh Down On Science

Does it help to view anxiety as a coping mechanism?

Jamieson and others, Association for Psychological Science, 2013

Subjects' stress levels after doing a verbal test with and without instructions on how to cope with the stress. Both naturally anxious people and naturally nonanxious people were less stressed when given coping instructions (right-hand bars).

Is stage fright good for us?

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

Fear of public speaking is a popular phobia.  On a scale of one to Simon Cowell, no phobia ranks higher.

Yet University of Rochester psychologists say the feeling of stage fright has a purpose!  It’s our body marshaling resources.  Our heart pumps more blood to our major muscles.  Sends more oxygen to our brain.  The problem is that we just interpret these physical responses negatively.

They wondered if viewing the stress as a coping mechanism would help people quell their anxiety.

To find out, the team worked with two groups of volunteers.  One group was prepped on stress’s benefits.  The other group?  Nada.

Next, each volunteer gave an impromptu, five-minute speech, alone, before two judges.  But surprise!  The judges were mean!  They scowled!  Shook their heads, whispered.

Result?  Prepped volunteers fared better.  They reported more confidence, and sensors showed that their hearts pumped blood more efficiently.

The findings could help treat social anxiety disorder.

So ... break a leg!  It's good for you!

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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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