Academic department under which the project should be listed

RCHSS - Psychological Science

Faculty Sponsor Name

Sharon Pearcey

Additional Faculty

Anna Rosenhauer, Psychological Science, arosenha@kennesaw.edu Ebony Glover, Psychological Science, eglove12@kennesaw.edu

Abstract (300 words maximum)

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety where people experience elevated physiological and emotional distress in the presence of an examination. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that is triggered when humans encounter stress in their environment. Various sex hormones have been shown to affect cortisol levels as well as general anxiety symptoms. Estrogen is an important sex hormone that facilitates the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system and has been found to impact cognition. We were interested in whether cortisol levels prior to participation in a fear conditioning experiment could predict an individual’s perceived test anxiety. As sex and estrogen levels could impact cortisol, we also investigated these variables as well. Based on previous literature, we hypothesized that people with higher cortisol levels prior to participation in an experiment would have high self-reports of test anxiety and that high estradiol levels could mediate this relationship by decreasing overall cortisol. Data were obtained as part of a larger study investigating the impact of reproductive hormones on fear conditioning. Cortisol and estrogen levels were assayed via saliva samples collected from each participant prior to fear conditioning when anxiety, such as that experienced during an exam, could be triggered due to the anticipation of study participation. Participants also self-reported their test anxiety using the Westside Test Anxiety Scale along with other self-report scales. For our analysis, cortisol was used as a predictor variable for test anxiety scores with estrogen levels in women also included. In a further analysis, test anxiety levels were found to be positively correlated with related variables including total stress and anxiety, emotion dysregulation, and state and trait anxiety. Implications of this study are important for the general public given how essential test-taking is for people navigating the academic and professional world.

Project Type

Poster

How will this be presented?

Yes, in person

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The Relationship of Test Anxiety with Other Anxieties, Stress, and Emotion Dysregulation

Test anxiety is a type of performance anxiety where people experience elevated physiological and emotional distress in the presence of an examination. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that is triggered when humans encounter stress in their environment. Various sex hormones have been shown to affect cortisol levels as well as general anxiety symptoms. Estrogen is an important sex hormone that facilitates the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system and has been found to impact cognition. We were interested in whether cortisol levels prior to participation in a fear conditioning experiment could predict an individual’s perceived test anxiety. As sex and estrogen levels could impact cortisol, we also investigated these variables as well. Based on previous literature, we hypothesized that people with higher cortisol levels prior to participation in an experiment would have high self-reports of test anxiety and that high estradiol levels could mediate this relationship by decreasing overall cortisol. Data were obtained as part of a larger study investigating the impact of reproductive hormones on fear conditioning. Cortisol and estrogen levels were assayed via saliva samples collected from each participant prior to fear conditioning when anxiety, such as that experienced during an exam, could be triggered due to the anticipation of study participation. Participants also self-reported their test anxiety using the Westside Test Anxiety Scale along with other self-report scales. For our analysis, cortisol was used as a predictor variable for test anxiety scores with estrogen levels in women also included. In a further analysis, test anxiety levels were found to be positively correlated with related variables including total stress and anxiety, emotion dysregulation, and state and trait anxiety. Implications of this study are important for the general public given how essential test-taking is for people navigating the academic and professional world.

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