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Carnegie Mellon Research shows self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress
Date:5/3/2013

PITTSBURGHIt's no secret that stress increases your susceptibility to health problems, and it also impacts your ability to solve problems and be creative. But methods to prevent associated risks and effects have been less clear until now.

Published in PLOS ONE, new research from Carnegie Mellon University provides the first evidence that self-affirmation can protect against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance. Understanding that self-affirmation the process of identifying and focusing on one's most important values boosts stressed individuals' problem-solving abilities will help guide future research and the development of educational interventions.

"An emerging set of published studies suggest that a brief self-affirmation activity at the beginning of a school term can boost academic grade-point averages in underperforming kids at the end of the semester. This new work suggests a mechanism for these studies, showing self-affirmation effects on actual problem-solving performance under pressure," said J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Because previous research indicated that self-affirmation may be an effective stress management approach, Creswell and his research team had college students rank-order a set of values (e.g., art, business, family and friends) in terms of their personal importance, and indicate their levels of chronic stress. Participants randomly assigned to a self-affirmation condition were asked to write a couple of sentences about why their number one ranked value was important (a standard self-affirmation exercise). All participants then had to complete a challenging problem-solving task under time pressure, which required creativity in order to generate correct solutions.

The results showed that participants who were under high levels of chronic stress during the past month had impaired probl
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Contact: Shilo Rea
shilo@cmu.edu
412-268-6094
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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