Speaking of Stress: Predictors and Consequences of Stress Mindset in College Students

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2021-05

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the relevance of stress mindsets to college students. Stress mindsets describe the intuitive beliefs that people hold about the nature of stress as either enhancing or debilitating. In two studies, we sampled distinct groups of current or recent college students (N = 1170) regarding their stress mindsets, perceived distress, well-being, academic performance, procrastination habits, descriptions of stress, and personality characteristics. Our five main goals were to: (1) replicate prior findings that stress mindsets predict perceived distress, well-being, and academic outcomes (GPA), (2) assess how stress mindsets relate to procrastination, (3) explore whether language can reveal students’ stress mindsets, (4) consider how Big 5 personality traits inform stress mindsets, and (5) test whether stress mindset predicts important outcomes even when controlling for the potential third variable of personality. Our results supported prior research in noting that an enhancing stress mindset was associated with lower perceived distress, higher well-being, and higher GPA. Study 1 also indicated that an enhancing stress mindset predicted lower procrastination. Enhancing stress mindsets were significantly associated with positive emotional language, negative emotional language, and words related to drive, achievement, and reward across studies. Stress mindset was also associated with personality; participants were more likely to hold an enhancing stress mindset when they were lower in openness, higher in conscientiousness, higher in extraversion, and lower in neuroticism. Finally, after controlling for relevant personality traits, stress mindset continued to be a significant unique predictor of perceived distress, well-being, and GPA, but not procrastination. Together, our findings underscore the relevance of stress mindset to important outcomes in college students, suggesting that language can provide a window into stress mindsets, and that personality may play a role in shaping one’s beliefs about the nature of stress.

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Citation

Levin, Janette (2021). Speaking of Stress: Predictors and Consequences of Stress Mindset in College Students. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/22617.


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