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Empirical research has demonstrated that the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) consists of public speaking that has been used effectively to increase physiological and perceived stress. In addition, exposure therapy and mindfulness meditation have been widely used to decrease stress in a clinical setting. The purpose of this study was to see if practicing an exposure exercise or mindfulness meditation would decrease physiological and perceived measures of anxiety after speaking in front of a video camera. A total of 19 undergraduates were assigned to one of three conditions. The control condition completed no preparation, the mindfulness meditation condition practiced a formal mindfulness meditation breathing technique, and the exposure condition practiced a prompt in front of a mirror. At the end of the week participants were asked to prepare and present a speech by answering several self-evaluating job interview questions in front of a video camera. Participants’ cortisol samples, heart rates, and subjective units of distress (SUDS) were taken before and after the speech. It was predicted that in all conditions, participants’ physiological and perceived measures of stress would increase immediately after the stressor task. It was also predicted that in the exposure and mindfulness meditation conditions, participants’ physiological and perceived stress would increase significantly less than the control condition. As predicted SUDS change scores were significantly lower in the exposure condition than in the control condition. There was also a positive correlation between SUDS and cortisol. These findings support that practicing in front of a mirror can decrease perceived stress and that perceived stress can act as a predictor of physiological stress. Future studies would want to include a larger sample size and a more controlled clinical laboratory setting.


Approved by: Michael Livingston, Linda Tennison, Jan Holtz, Rodger Narloch, Anthony Cunningham

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