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A change in perspective could be all it takes to succeed in school
Date:8/8/2011

Knowing the right way to handle stress in the classroom and on the sports field can make the difference between success and failure for the millions of students going back to school this fall, new University of Chicago research shows.

"We found that cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, can either be tied to a student's poor performance on a math test or contribute to success, depending on the frame of mind of the student going into the test," said Sian Beilock, associate professor in psychology at UChicago and one of the nation's leading experts on poor performance by otherwise talented people.

She is the author of "Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting it Right When You Have To," released this month in paperback.

In a new paper published in the current issue of the journal "Emotion," Beilock and her colleagues explore the topic of performance failure in math and show, for the first time, that there is a critical connection between working memory, math anxiety and salivary cortisol.

Working memory is the mental reserve that people use to process information and figure out solutions during tests. Math anxiety is fear or apprehension when just thinking about taking a math test. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland and associated with stress-related changes in the body; it is often referred to as the "stress hormone."

Tracking math anxiety in students

Beilock and her team tested 73 undergraduate students to determine their working memory capacities and their level of math anxiety. They also measured cortisol levels (via a saliva sample) before and after a stressful math test. They published the results in a paper titled "Choke or Thrive? The Relation between Salivary Cortisol and Math Performance Depends on Individual Differences in Working Memory and Math Anxiety."

Among students with low working memories, there was little difference in perf
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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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