Critique of Academic Examination Stress Impairs Self-Control

Topics: Scientific method, Psychology, Smoking Pages: 5 (1695 words) Published: January 10, 2014

Critique of
Academic Examination Stress Impairs Self-Control
Meagan Oaten and Jen Cheng (2005)


Self-control is a human trait that we all possess. It is highly adaptive, and gives one the ability to “control or alter their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors” (Oaten & Cheng, 2005, p. 254). Self-regulation plays a part in how prominent success is in college students. I have seen many friends fail out due to the lack of this trait. I examined an article written by Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng. “Academic Examination Stress Impairs Self-Control” is a research study aimed to determine whether stress, particularly academic stress brought on my exams, would impair regulatory behavior by consuming self-control strength. They hypothesize that one possess a certain, limited, strength to control and override behaviors. The researchers describe this self-control strength as limited, and when it is consumed or depleted (by stress or increased use) impairment of regulatory behaviors occurs. The article explores aspects of self-control, including the strength one requires to overcome habits and impulses, as well as how stress from everyday activities, in particular, academic exams, impairs self-control (Oaten & Cheng).

Impaired self-control is abundant in society today. For example, I knew I should have had fruit and cereal for breakfast, but the chocolate chip muffin tasted so much better. It does not always result from cravings, but stress can alter control as well. Stress comes from all over with increased pressure from professors, parents, peers and co-workers. I chose this article due particularly to the high levels of stress I experience in my own life. One main goal for this course is to become healthy, confident and happy in the path of my life. My impulsivity along with reduced self-control has led to negative outcomes over the past years. In analyzing and critiquing this article, I can hope to better understand why my behaviors continue, and how stress affects them.

There were two groups appointed in the study. The exam-stress group, which included students taking exams, were compared to the control group, students at the same school who did not take exams. The exam-stress group was first assessed at baseline, then again at the beginning of exams. The control group was assessed during two unstressful times. Fifty-seven Macqurie University Undergraduates participated in the study (16 men and 41 women). The control group had 27 participants (5 men and 22 women), where as the exam-stress group had 30 participants (11 men and 19 women). All participants chosen ranged from 18 to 50 years, with a mean age of 20. All participates were individually tested in one 30-min session followed by another 4 weeks later (Oaten & Cheng).

Two equal longitudinal studies were conducted at two separate times, Study 1 included exam-stress group and Study 2 tested the control group ( both two times, at baseline, and then again with either stress or no stress). Psychosocial measures included the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS), the Tangney-Baumeister Scale, the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).

Behavioral measures of the study were measured to assess cigarette smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, nutrition habits as well as other regulatory behaviors. These were assessed by means of questionnaires. The researchers employed open-ended questions to assess smoking and caffeine consumption. Physical activity was assessed by duration and frequency. They measured number of episodes, total duration and ease of maintaining activity sessions. Inquiring about normal diet choices over the past week assessed dietary habits. Other regulatory behaviors were also assessed. These behaviors, which do not serve a stress relieving function, were assessed using a 5-point scale. They also administered the Stroop test to...
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