Preuss, Diana, Schoofs, Daniela, Schlotz, Wolff and Wolf, Oliver T.
The stressed student: Influence of written examinations and oral presentations on salivary cortisol concentrations in university students
Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress, 13, (3), . (doi:10.3109/10253890903277579).
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Laboratory research has demonstrated that social-evaluative threat has an influence on the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis (HPA). In two studies using independent samples, we evaluated the anticipatory cortisol response to a written university examination (n = 35) and to an oral presentation (n = 34). Saliva samples were collected before and after the examinations and on a control day. Additionally, saliva samples were collected on the day before the written examination and a control day. Results revealed significantly elevated cortisol concentrations on the day prior to the examination; however, this effect occurred only in those participants who had their control day after the examination. Cortisol concentrations were elevated on the examination day, with increased concentrations before but not after the examination. For the oral presentation study, the results revealed substantially elevated cortisol concentrations before and after the oral presentation. Taken together the results
indicate that written examinations cause a mild anticipatory HPA response while oral presentations induce a strong HPA response. These findings appear to support the idea that social-evaluative threat is an important factor determining the size of the HPA response to laboratory stressors as well as to real-life stressors.
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