Science University Research Symposium (SURS)


Performance Under Pressure: Does Stress Impact Emotional Recognition?

Publication Date



Sciences and Mathematics, College of


Psychological Science, Department of

SURS Faculty Advisor

Michael Oliver

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


Emotional recognition is a crucial component of social interaction and human communication. Sensing and interpreting body language, verbal intonations, facial expressions, and social cues are all part of recognizing emotional states (Ekman, 1999). Stress is a physiological and emotional state that can alter emotional recognition. This randomized experimental study aimed to observe the relationship between stress and the ability to discern emotional states behind facial expressions. Introductory psychology students were divided into a control group and a stress group in which participants had their non-dominant hand submerged in ice water. Participants completed a facial emotion recognition task, and their rankings of the valence of the displayed facial expressions were evaluated for group differences. It was hypothesized that participants in the stress group would score all facial stimuli with a negative bias compared to the control participants' scores. The one-sided t tests conducted showed no significant group differences in either happy or neutral faces, however there was a trend in rankings of sad faces indicating a possible group difference. While our findings were not conclusive, these results can be used to inform future investigations within the realm of stress and facial emotional recognition.

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