Elizabeth A. Chevalier, Sophia Elle Hollins, Stella Odelle Monnig


Presentation: 10:45-12:00, Kennedy Union Ballroom



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Cortisol is the primary hormone involved in the stress response in humans, and it increases in response to psychological stressors (Dickerson & Kemeny, 2004). One laboratory procedure commonly used to increase subjective distress and trigger a cortisol response is the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), which incorporates cognitively demanding and social evaluative components (Kirschbaum et al., 1993). In our current study, a variation of the TSST was used to test its ability to acutely increase stress, as evidenced by participant’s subjective and physiological responses. These responses were measured by questionnaires and saliva analyses, respectively. Our variation included a non-stress group, modeled after the control condition utilized by Espin et al. (2013), which some versions of the TSST don’t use. Our lab is using the TSST for the first time to investigate our broader interests: stress, negative affect, and alcohol use. Participants were randomly assigned to the stress or non-stress condition. They completed questionnaires about their stress and affect pre- and post-TSST, as well as questionnaires about their alcohol use and cravings post-TSST. Participants provided three saliva samples throughout the procedure: Time 1 was pre-TSST, Time 2 was 30 minutes later, and Time 3 was 25 minutes after Time 2. Hypotheses included: 1. participants in the stress condition would have increased cortisol levels at Time 2 relative to Time 1 and the non-stress group; 2. participants in the non-stress condition would not show increased cortisol levels; and, 3. participants in the stress condition would have changes in mood, and higher ratings of alcohol craving. Analysis of salivary cortisol levels is ongoing, but analysis of subjective responses shows a significant increase in negative affect in the stress group relative to Time 1 and the non-stress group. To-date, these data suggest that our version of the TSST was successful for inducing a mood change.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Independent Research

Primary Advisor

Tracy R. Griggs

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences

Institutional Learning Goals


Physiological and Subjective Responses to a Novel Version of the Trier Social Stress Test