Stressed for Success: An Anxiety Reappraisal Video Intervention for Undergraduates

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Students everywhere can feel anxious about exams and are commonly met with the advice to “calm down.” However, researchers have found that it is the worries, not the bodily feelings associated with anxiety, that impair student performance, and thus advice to calm down does not target the harmful part of anxiety. An alternative approach is to target worry by helping students reappraise their anxiety as neutral or beneficial, instead of harmful. Reappraisal messages, delivered in the form of emails or paragraphs, have shown promising results for improving student performance. We tested whether delivering a reappraisal intervention in the form of animated video would improve student performance on a real college exam, compared to a control video describing basic study tips. An online feasibility study (Study 1) confirmed that the reappraisal message was effective at shifting participants’ beliefs about anxiety. Next, we tested whether the reappraisal message could improve student experience and performance in an introductory economics course (Study 2). Additionally, we examined for whom the intervention might work best by measuring baseline anxiety and beliefs about stress. Although the reappraisal message successfully shifted students’ beliefs about anxiety, it demonstrated no effect on performance compared to the control. Baseline measures of anxiety were predictive of performance and how students interacted with the reappraisal message.





Herrmann, Katherine (2019). Stressed for Success: An Anxiety Reappraisal Video Intervention for Undergraduates. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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