"Our study shows that reflection on personal values can buffer people from the effects of stress, but the implications are broader than that," said Shelley E. Taylor, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology, and an expert in the field of stress and health. "Any positive self-affirmation can act as a buffer against stressful events; that can include values, personal relationships and qualities that are a source of pride."
In the study, 80 UCLA undergraduates completed stressful tasks. They delivered five-minute speeches about their qualifications for an office job in front of "speech evaluators" trained to be non expressive, who would coldly tell them during pauses, "You still have time remaining. Please continue." After a short break, they were instructed to subtract 13 from 2,083 under harassing conditions. They were told to go faster and at each mistake, they were told, "That is incorrect. Please start over from 2,083."
Prior to these stress tests, one group of students (a randomly assigned "value affirmation" group) reflected on values they had identified in advance as especially meaningful to them, answering 10 written questions. These could have been religious values, in which case they were asked a series of questions about their religion, the Bible and God. In other cases, they reflected on meaningful secular values -- such as their political beliefs or social values -- answering questions about, for example, Abraham Lincoln or community service work.
The other students were randomly assigned to a control group where they answered questions before the stress test about values they had identified as unimportant to them.
Those who reflected on values they consider meaningful, regardless of what those values were, had si
Contact: Stuart Wolpert
University of California - Los Angeles