--Original published at Max'sPHY105blog
College students and high school students deal with stress all the time. Different students have different views of how to best cope with stress. David Yeager, a professor of psychology the University of Texas has an interesting view of how to cope with stress. He theorized that it is a specific way perceiving social challenges and failures that causes people to perceive stress a certain way. The most common way of thinking is called the entity theory. Students of this theory perceive social challenges and failures to be of lasting social reality. Another common way of perceiving social challenges and failures is known as the incremental theory. Students of this theory do not develop fixed trait attributions and are not as likely to perceive social challenges and failures to be of lasting social reality. David believes that high school students can deal with stress better if they are taught the incremental theory. He ran two studies to test this.
In his first study, Yeager recruited a maximum number of 60 student volunteers from high school students in the Rochester, New York area to be participants. Every student was randomly assigned Yeager’s intervention or a placebo so that half the students received Yeager’s intervention and the other half received the placebo. Both groups did a 25 minute reading and writing exercise. The experimental group’s exercise was about social treats and how to overcome them. The control group’s exercise was about adjusting to the physical environment of high school. After the groups completed their exercises, the individuals were asked to make a five minute video explaining what makes teenagers popular and count backward from 996 by sevens. As the students did this, their responses and performance to the tasks were observed. The students also filled out a questionnaire about how stressed they felt and provided a saliva sample so their cortisol level could be measured. When compared with the control group, it was found that the students in the experimental group reported lower threat appraisals, had lower cortisol reactivity in their saliva, and performed better on the stressful task.
In the second study, Yeager recruited ninth grade Algebra 1 students at another high school to be participant. 303 students volunteered to have their school records analyzed. Each of these students were randomly assigned to complete experimental materials having to do with learning the incremental theory of personality, or control materials. In set time periods, saliva samples were collected from each of the students to measure cortisol levels. Also, between saliva samples, the students answered a writing prompt asking about stressful events that happened, how negative these events were, and how confident the student felt in dealing with them. The student grades in their core classes were observed as well. When compared with the control group, the students in the experimental group had higher GPA’s and lower cortisol levels, but reported the same amount of threat appraisals.
These two studies were very well done. The independent and dependent variable were clear and the studies have shown how the independent variable affects the dependent variable. The method used allow for causal claims since it was a true experiment. It included an independent variable that has shown to have an effect on the multiple dependent variables that were measured. The only major difference in the independent and dependent variable relationship between the two studies was the threat appraisals reported by the students. In the first study, the stressful situation was created by the researchers and the reported threat appraisals were lower for the experimental group. In the second study, the stressful situation was a real high school Algebra class and the reported threat appraisals were the same for both groups. This would make sense since all the students in the Algebra 1 class would feel more stressed than the students of Yeager’s intervention in the first study knowing that they are in a real stressful class in which their academic performance will mean more to them later in life. Other than this, the experimental groups’ cortisol levels were lower than the control groups and their performance was better than the control groups’, so it is logical to assume that Yeager’s intervention helped the students cope with stress.
Although this experiment was well done, there are a couple of limitations on this experiment. First of all, the conclusions of these studies cannot be generalized to the whole population of high school students. For the first study, the conclusions can only be generalized to the high school students of the school from which the participants came from. For the second study the conclusions can only be generalized to Algebra 1 students in their first semester of high school. Another limitation on this study, mentioned by Yeager, was that his method only taught student about the incremental theory of personality. It does not initiate the way of thinking. Later priorities will have to go beyond simply telling students about the incremental theory of personality and find comprehensive ways to initiate it.
Yeager’s method of reducing high school student’s social stress sounds like a good one based on the two studies he performed, but again, the studies cannot be generalized to the whole population of high school students and his method is simply telling students about something, this is not initiating. These studies might provide enough evidence to encourage high schools to teach new students about the incremental theory of personality, but they also must find some comprehensive ways to initiate it, since it is not good to rely on something that is not initiating. There is still no grantee that Yeager’s method is as effective as it may sound, but it is probably worth a try.
The process of summarizing a news article after reading the original published journal article was a bit troublesome, but interesting at the same time. As I summarized the study, I tried to improve off of the news article I had originally read in several ways, but since my summary could be no longer than the first news article I read, I was limited with how much information I could include. When I summarized the research, I made a priority to answer all five critical question for evaluating research, as this was one mistake I found in the original news article. Answering these five critical questions is important for evaluating research, so it is important for them to be answered in any record of a study. Another thing I wanted to improve on was mentioning limitations of the study. The original news article did not mentions any limitations of this study because it wanted its readers to only see the bright side of the experiment. To provide a more accurate picture of the study, I made it a second priority to mention the limitations on this study. That way readers would not rely on bright conclusions to much and be disappointed if they do not work. I also tried to be specific in terms of what exactly the students received as treatments for the experiment. The original news article did not go into this very much, so I made an effort to be as specific as the original journal article did, about the treatments for each of the students. One thing that I was not able to mention was my own opinions about other confounding variables that could have been present in the experiment. After I read the original journal article, I still was wondering about confounding variables that could have affected the outcome of the experiment, since neither the journal article or the news article mentioned anything about this. I would have included my thought about this in the summary if I had more space. I decided that this was not as important as the other facts though. I felt that the given facts were more important than my own opinions. My perspective of journalists has not changed very much over the course of this project. I understand that I was not able to include everything I wanted to in my summary, but I was able to include all the facts that make the research sound accurate. The original news article I read still appears to aim toward making the study sound better than it really is. My perspective of journalists still includes them not always having the same goal as the experimenters and often try to sway people into believing what they hope for them to believe.