The Need for a Neutral Speaking Period in the Trier Social Stress Test
As it is known that vocalization has an effect on the stress response, the present study sought to examine the inclusion of a neutral speaking period in the Trier Social Stress Test. Participants in this study underwent a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test including four five-minute time periods: a baseline period of sitting silently while listening to calming beach sounds, responding to neutral questions, responding to verbal analogy questions taken from a previous GRE exam, and performing a mathematical serial subtraction task. The verbal and math questioning portions were considered the stressor periods. Psychological data collected included the State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, and the Perceived Stress Scale. Physiological data collected included systolic and diastolic blood pressures, galvanic skin response, and high-frequency heart rate variability. The results showed that while there were significant differences observed between baseline and all other time periods for systolic and diastolic blood pressures, galvanic skin response, and high-frequency heart rate variability, there were not significant differences observed in systolic or diastolic blood pressures between the neutral and verbal questioning periods, and there were not significant differences observed in galvanic skin response or high-frequency heart rate variability between the neutral questioning and either stressor period. These results suggest that the inclusion of a neutral speaking period in the Trier Social Stress Test, to account for the effect of vocalization on the stress response, is crucial for accurate interpretation of results.
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