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J Exp Soc Psychol. 2010 Jan 1;46(1):208-212.

Turning the knots in your stomach into bows: Reappraising arousal improves performance on the GRE.

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1
Harvard University.

Abstract

This research examined the benefits of interpreting physiological arousal as a challenge response on practice and actual Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Participants who were preparing to take the GRE reported to the laboratory for a practice GRE study. Participants assigned to a reappraisal condition were told arousal improves performance, whereas control participants were not given this information. We collected saliva samples at baseline and after the appraisal manipulation, which were then assayed for salivary alpha amylase (sAA), a measure of sympathetic nervous system activation. Reappraisal participants exhibited a significant increase in sAA and outperformed controls on the GRE-math section. One to three months later, participants returned to the lab and provided their score reports from their actual GRE. Again, reappraisal participants scored higher than controls on the GRE-math section. These findings illuminate the powerful influence appraisal has on physiology and performance both in and out of the laboratory.

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