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Biol Psychol. 2009 Oct;82(2):116-24. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.06.005. Epub 2009 Jul 1.

A prepared speech in front of a pre-recorded audience: subjective, physiological, and neuroendocrine responses to the Leiden Public Speaking Task.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.


This study describes a new public speaking protocol for youth. The main question asked whether a speech prepared at home and given in front of a pre-recorded audience creates a condition of social-evaluative threat. Findings showed that, on average, this task elicits a moderate stress response in a community sample of 83 12- to 15-year-old adolescents. During the speech, participants reported feeling more nervous and having higher heart rate and sweatiness of the hands than at baseline or recovery. Likewise, physiological (heart rate and skin conductance) and neuroendocrine (cortisol) activity were higher during the speech than at baseline or recovery. Additionally, an anticipation effect was observed: baseline levels were higher than recovery levels for most variables. Taking the anticipation and speech response together, a substantial cortisol response was observed for 55% of participants. The findings indicate that the Leiden Public Speaking Task might be particularly suited to investigate individual differences in sensitivity to social-evaluative situations.

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