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Biological Psychology | Psychology


Dr. Laura Sinville, Psychology


The physiological arousal induced by a stressful situation has historically been viewed as bad; however, recent research has challenged this perspective, arguing that stress-related arousal can be beneficial. Arousal reappraisal is a coping technique that encourages individuals to reinterpret their physiological stress response as a means to help improve performance. Conversely, suppression, a common, yet ineffective coping technique, involves the active effort to stop oneself from expressing an emotional behavior. The current research examined the relationship between coping techniques and interoceptive awareness (IA), the degree to which individuals are aware of their own physiological changes. Comparing arousal reappraisal to both suppression and a control condition, the current research measured physiological changes, as well as performance on tasks intended to induce stress, including a timed math subtraction task and a karaoke singing task, to determine whether individuals with high IA would benefit more from arousal reappraisal techniques. Hypothesis One predicted an interaction between the independent variables, with high IA individuals in the control and suppression conditions performing worse than their low IA counterparts and high IA individuals benefiting more from arousal reappraisal techniques than those with low IA. Hypothesis Two predicted a main effect of coping condition for physiological changes, specifically predicting that individuals in the suppression condition would experience increased levels of physiology when compared to individuals in the other conditions. The results of the study did not fully support either hypothesis. The results suggest that arousal reappraisal did not have a significant effect on performance during a stressful task and found IA to have no significant impact on participants' ability to benefit from reappraisal. However, the results did show a non-significant trend towards an interaction between IA and coping condition for performance on the mathematical stress task. This trend supports our prediction that suppression would hinder performance ability and continues to support the importance of the role of IA. Finally, there was a significant difference between baseline physiology and physiology during the two stress tasks, suggesting the tasks were an effective manipulation. However, physiology did not vary between the coping conditions. The results suggest the need for continued research on this topic.


Winner of CSB/SJU 2017-2018 "Outstanding All College Thesis Award."