Effects of Improvisation Training on Student Teachers’ Behavioral, Neuroendocrine, and Psychophysiological Responses during the Trier Social Stress Test

Sirke Seppänen*, Tapio Toivanen, Tommi Makkonen, Iiro P. Jääskeläinen, Mikko Anttonen, Kaisa Tiippana

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

61 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Objectives: Teaching involves multiple performance situations, potentially causing psychosocial stress. Since the theater-based improvisation method is associated with diminished social stress, we investigated whether improvisation lessened student teachers’ stress responses using the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST; preparatory phase, public speech, and math task). Moreover, we studied the influence of interpersonal confidence (IC) – the belief regarding one’s capability related to effective social interactions – on stress responses. Methods: The intervention group (n = 19) received a 7-week (17.5 h) improvisation training, preceded and followed by the TSST. We evaluated experienced stress using a self-report scale, while physiological stress was assessed before (silent 30-s waiting period) and during the TSST tasks using cardiovascular measures (heart rate, heart rate variability [HRV]), electrodermal activation, facial electromyography (f-EMG), and EEG asymmetry. Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA-axis) reactivity was assessed through repeated salivary cortisol sampling. Results: Compared to the control group (n = 16), the intervention group exhibited less f-EMG activity before a public speech and higher HRV before the math task. The low IC intervention subgroup reported significantly less stress during the math task. The controls showed a decreased heart rate before the math task, and controls with a low IC exhibited higher HRV during the speech. Self-reported stress and cortisol levels were positively correlated during the post-TSST preparatory phase. Conclusions: These findings suggest that improvisation training might diminish stress levels, specifically before a performance. In addition, interpersonal confidence appears to reduce stress responses. The decreased stress responses in the control group suggest adaptation through repetition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356–380
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Anticipatory anxiety
  • Improvisation
  • Interpersonal confidence
  • Psychophysiology
  • Teacher education
  • Trier social stress test

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of Improvisation Training on Student Teachers’ Behavioral, Neuroendocrine, and Psychophysiological Responses during the Trier Social Stress Test'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this