OPEN PloS one | 10 May 2013
JD Creswell, JM Dutcher, WM Klein, PR Harris and JM Levine
High levels of acute and chronic stress are known to impair problem-solving and creativity on a broad range of tasks. Despite this evidence, we know little about protective factors for mitigating the deleterious effects of stress on problem-solving. Building on previous research showing that self-affirmation can buffer stress, we tested whether an experimental manipulation of self-affirmation improves problem-solving performance in chronically stressed participants. Eighty undergraduates indicated their perceived chronic stress over the previous month and were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation or control condition. They then completed 30 difficult remote associate problem-solving items under time pressure in front of an evaluator. Results showed that self-affirmation improved problem-solving performance in underperforming chronically stressed individuals. This research suggests a novel means for boosting problem-solving under stress and may have important implications for understanding how self-affirmation boosts academic achievement in school settings.
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