I saw a few write ups of this study on test anxiety. The study itself uses some pretty technical language (perhaps an artifact of the “scientization” of the humanities), but here is the gist as I understand it:
- The standard theory concerning the cause of test anxiety is that students both value the outcome of the test while at the same time feel they have less control than they would like in getting prepared (i.e. a lack of self efficacy).
- This lack of self efficacy leads to procrastination resulting in a perfect storm / self fulfilling prophecy: I don’t think I will do well because I can’t learn the material and since I can learn the material, why should I bother to study, which of course results in…not learning the material.
- The study found something that I think is a form of CBT called “inquiry-based stress reduction” (IBSR) as an effective means to overcome the feeling of non-effectiveness.
I read through the entire study since it reminded me of how I can feel when facing a big project. I have a perfect idea of what the result should be in my mind, but I struggle to start because I know that no matter how hard I work, whatever gets realized won’t be as perfect. Steven Pressfield called this feeling “resistance” and he correctly observed that you only really feel it for things you care a lot about. I’ve gotten reasonably good at noticing resistance, but I’m interested to try the ideas in this study to give me something to do about it when I do.
The two opening questions seem like CBT classics:
- “Is this thought true?”
- “Can you absolutely know that this thought is true?”.
But the follow-ups are a little more interesting:
- “How do you react, what happens when you have this thought?”
- “Does that thought bring peace or stress to your life?”
- “What images do you see, past or present, as you think this thought?”
- “What physical sensations arise having these thoughts and seeing these pictures?”
- “What emotions arise when you have that thought?”
- Do any obsessions or addictions begin to appear when you have this thought (e.g. alcohol, drugs, shopping, food, and television)?”
- “How do you treat others when you have this thought? How do you treat yourself when you have this thought?”