Research Problems in Cognitive Science Presents: Graduate student – Peirce McGuckin (Advisor: Alicia Walf)

Effects of psychosocial stress delivered via a virtual platform for immediate and delayed verbal recall

Wednesday: September 7, 2022 - Approx.12:45pm Eastern Time (Immediately following Michael Giancola)

Everyday human beings encounter stress in some form or another. Whether it be anxiety over an exam, or the fear of a predator chasing you, humans elicit the same stress response for many different reasons. What is less understood is whether stress can benefit or impair memory because there is evidence in support of both, mainly depending upon the type of stress, the timing of the stress, and other factors. In this study, we sought to investigate this by using a well-known psychosocial stress method, the Trier Social Stress Test, and comparing the effects to a friendly (control) version of the test (friendly TSST; fTSST). Additionally, instead of using the traditional in-person testing using TSST and fTSST, we did this remotely through WebEx. We hypothesized that participants would have higher stress during memory encoding and worse verbal recall task performance in the TSST compared to fTSST condition. Research subjects (18 recruited in total, 10 fully completed the task) were adult, Rensselaer students. Subjects experienced either the TSST or fTSST with two experimenters on WebEx before having to rate their stress levels and then listen to a list of 
15 nouns. A recall test of these words was done immediately and then again 24 hours later. To date, we have data from 5 subjects in each condition. Although the stress levels reported are higher in the TSST compared to fSST conditions, no differences are noted in the immediate or delayed verbal recall. We are continuing work on this project. Future studies will also consider the role of psychosocial stress in an online platform during memory consolidation or retrieval.

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