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Trier Social Stress Test

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Social Processes: Methodology · Types of test


The Trier Social Stress test is a psychological procedure that allows experimenters to induce stress under laboratory conditions. What is unique about the procedure is that it also allows experimenters to compare people's stress levels, despite individual differences (e.g. personality).

The test is designed to induce stress in as many people as possible, by using a wide range of methods.

Procedure Edit

• After arrival at the laboratory participants are allowed to rest for ten minutes (30 min after insertion of an indwelling catheter) in room A.

• At time zero, the participant is taken into a second room (room B) and introduced to the task they will have to perform subsequently.

• In room B, three people (the interview panel) are already sitting at a table and a video camera and tape recorder are installed.

• The participant is asked to stand in front of the interview panel.

• The investigator now asks the participant to assume the role of a job applicant who is invited to a personal interview with the company's staff managers (selection committee).

• The participant is told that after a preparation period they should introduce themselves to the managers in a free speech of 5 min duration and convince the managers that they are the perfect applicant for the vacant position.

• The managers are introduced as being especially trained to monitor non-verbal behaviour.

• Further it is announced that a voice frequency analysis of non-verbal behaviours will be performed on the tape-recorded talk.

• In addition a video analysis of the participant's performance will also be conducted.

• The selection committee always comprises males and females.

• Following these instructions the participant returns to room A and is given 10 minutes to prepare for their talk. They may make pen and paper notes but are not allowed to refer to these during the interview.

• At time +10 min. the participant is guided back to the interview room (room B) by the investigator who then leaves the room. One of the managers now invites the subject to begin his talk, to last for 5 minutes in front of the selection committee. The participant stands before the committee.

• If the participant finishes his speech prior to the allotted 5 minutes the managers should respond in the standardised way. They first telling the participant "You still have some time; please continue". Should the participant finish a second time before the five minutes are over, the managers say nothing for 20 seconds and then ask prepared questions.

• At time +15 min. the selection committee ask the participant to count down from a large prime number (2083, for example) in increments of 13 as quickly and accurately as possible.

• On every failure the participant has to restart at the beginning number with one member of the committee prompting:"error 2083."

• At time +20 min. the task is completed and the participant is taken back to room A by the investigator, who then debriefs the participant about the goal of the study and that neither voice pattern nor video analysis would be performed.

• The participant is allowed to rest during which various physiological measures of the stress response are made.

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