Visualization as a means to reduce objective and subjective stress of students during exams
Studies show that people learn more sustainably when they are free from anxiety (Porges, 2017). A quarter of students are afraid of exams (Eissler et al., 2020). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other things, feelings of anxiety among schoolchildren have increased (Ravens-Sieberer et al., 2021).
Research shows that test anxiety has a negative impact on performance and learning (Hagnauer, 2011). It is also known that being immersed in an activity, so-called flow experience, promotes learning (Hagnauer, 2011; Csikszentmihalyi & Schiefele, 1993). Hence, a positive emotional state during learning is beneficial. Reduced student anxiety is associated with improved achievement (Bradley et al., 2010). From this it can be deduced that profound knowledge and understanding is not possible for all people if learning and knowledge reproduction are associated with fear.
What can be done about it? Hypnotic techniques can signal security (Böhmer & Schmidt, 2021) and promote positive emotional states (Schmidt, 2022). Visualizations reduce pain (Nørgaard et al., 2015), help with learning (Fruth & Fruth, 2016) and are used in sports (Meyer & Hermann, 2015) and at school (Knörzer et al., 2011).
Both, the experience of flow and anxiety can be related to heart rate variability (Tozman et al., 2015). Skin conductance continues to be assessed in the context of math-related anxiety (Strohmeier et al., 2017). Self-hypnosis effects immune function such as cellular activity and cortisol level (Gruzelier et al., 2001). Longitudinal effects are of special interest due to the question of sustainable interventions. A meta-analysis found that hypnosis seemed effective in treating anxiety also at follow-up measurements (Valentine et al., 2019).
It is important for students to have effective strategies in place to facilitate learning and reduce anxiety regarding learning and exams for themselves during their studies and later on when being role models in various work settings, for example in schools. The exercise to be tested should also be able to be carried out shortly before an exam, hence, not taking too much time and at the same time being very effective. This can reduce inequalities and have a positive effect on the well-being of students in critical situations.
The research projects aims at answering different research questions such as the effectiveness of visualization exercises to reduce exam stress using the e4 wearables from empatica and blood pressure monitors. First results will be uploaded as soon as possible.
in cooperation with
Dr. Kristina Götz