Why Some Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

People are very, very aware of social feedback
– like we’re really tuned to this. And so things that can potentially harm your social
standing can potentially impede your relationships with other people, these are things that we
take very seriously. When we’re sitting there in the context of that situation, we
don’t always respond like we should. Now I will put ECG sensors on you. We wanted to
look at just how do people respond to social stress and we wanted to know how they respond
physiologically to it, how they responded cognitively and how they respond subjectively.
At the outset of the experiment, the first thing that people are doing is that we want
to collect these baseline recordings of physiology. To do that we need to affix these physiological
sensors that monitor activity. And so here is the ECG signal coming in. What we’re
doing is looking at changes from their normal state. This is the skin temperature, and you
see right here it’s at 93.42 degrees. So they were told to think about stress as a
coping tool. Like, stress isn’t bad, that these responses have evolved to help our ancestors
survive, that if we didn’t have these things we’d be doing worse. So after this we tell
them they’re going to give a speech about their strengths and weaknesses. Ok, we are
ready to begin. Please tell us about your strengths and weaknesses as a person. We will
be evaluating your performance throughout the speech. This is a very self-relevant speech.
You’re talking about yourself and you’re doing this in front of two evaluators that
you don’t know and that it’s also going to be recorded and looked at by other people
down the road. So there is a whole bunch of evaluation here. The evaluators are members
of our research team. So they’re going to be watching you and scoring you while you’re
speaking. And the whole time that they’re there, they’re giving people this negative
non-verbal feedback. And so they’re sitting there very stoically, having no emotions,
no facial expressions, frowning, furrowing your brow, they’re not nodding, they’re
not smiling. So you can imagine, public speaking isn’t so great to start with, then we’re
getting this negative non-verbal feedback. What is wrong with me? What am I doing that’s
so wrong and their response kind of amps up. So we see a really strong threat response
from this task usually. Operators are here monitoring physiological signals as they come
in real time. And we now have another task for you to try to evaluate your ability to
think on your feet. For this task, what we would like for you to do is count backwards,
aloud, starting from number 996 in steps of 7. This is something that participants don’t
know about until it’s kind of thrust on them right then in the moment. 957? I’m
not sure that was right. And when you get one wrong, they tell you, “I’m sorry that
was incorrect. Please go back to the beginning”. I’m not sure that was right. Please start
back at the beginning, 996. The take home from this whole line of research we’ve been
trying to tell people is that stress isn’t bad. The responses in our body, the stress
responses can actually positively predict cognitive performance. So people have the
higher stresses or the higher amounts of arousal actually do better on their tests than people
who don’t. So when you do need that arousal, when you do need to make some instrumental
response, the body’s stress response is actually going to help you make those responses
better or help you do something better. A production of the University of Rochester.
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5 thoughts on “Why Some Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

  1. How many such samples were taken? Because different persons behave differently under different circumstances.

  2. 69 adults took part in the study, roughly have of which had a history of social anxiety. They were randomly assigned to one of the two groups, either the one that received some form of coaching or the one that received no coaching. There are additional details in the description about how the experiment was conducted. Thank you for your comment.

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