Utilizing Stress: Manipulating Student’s Stress Mindsets Determines Their Health and Functioning Outcomes

Faculty Sponsor

Michelle Abraham


Arts and Sciences



Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 2019


In modern society, the overwhelming cultural narrative proclaims that stress is detrimental to health and should be avoided, or at least limited, as much as possible. However, a groundbreaking study by Crum et al. demonstrates that one’s stress mindset, rather than one’s stress level, the duration of stress or the magnitude of stress, determines health outcomes, both psychological and physiological (Crum et al., 2013). Mindsets are ubiquitous in daily life. Because we experience too much information from the world to process at any given time, mindsets are lenses by which we more simply order the world with proven influence on daily behaviors, and cascading effects on health, happiness, and success. Crum et al. posit two major categories of mindset: stress-is-debilitating (the culturally reinforced mindset) and stress-is-enhancing (the less common but more beneficial mindset). This study demonstrates that these mindsets can be manipulated, and that a stress-is-enhancing mindset has significant beneficial effects on performance, productivity, health, and learning. Given the cultural narrative, and that modern students are more stressed out and overwhelmed than ever before, it stands to reason that college students are a population with significant room for growth. The present study evaluates the body of literature on stress and mindsets, tests the feasibility and impact of a mindset intervention for university students by tracking their academic performance and psychological health over the course of an academic year, and further examines the effect of stress mindset interventions on students’ willingness and ability to grow from stressful experiences.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Abigail is a psychology and humanities double major with a minor in Spanish. She is part of Christ College. This research was completed as a senior honors thesis in psychology.

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