Can Biofeedback Increase the use of Stress Interventions?

  • Ada Nieminen


Undergraduate students struggle to incorporate stress coping strategies or self care routines into their lives that take time (e.g., yoga or exercise). However, there are many useful stress coping methods that do not require a significant time investment (e.g., deep breathing, cognitive reappraisal). These strategies can also be employed in the moment when students are facing an immediate stressor, like writing a final exam. Although these simple strategies exist, students often do not use them in the moment. It is unclear whether this lack of use is due to lack of knowledge , lack of belief that the strategy will be effective, or other factors. Our proposed study will examine these first two ideas. We will recruit participants into one of four groups: 1) deep breathing, 2) cognitive reappraisal, 3) deep breathing with biofeedback, 4) cognitive reappraisal with biofeedback. Physiological (i.e., heart rate variability) and psychological (i.e., perceived stress) measures will be assessed at baseline. Participants will then complete a stress-inducing mathematics task. Next, participants will be taught one of the two stress interventions. The stress task will then be repeated, and participants will be asked to use the intervention during the second stress task, either receiving heart rate variability biofeedback or not. Throughout the rest of the semester, participants will receive email prompts inquiring if they have used the learned intervention. We hypothesize that participants who receive biofeedback, and thus see that the intervention is effective, will use the intervention more often throughout the semester.

Presented in absentia on April 27, 2020 at "Student Research Day" at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta. (Conference cancelled)

Faculty Mentor: Michele Moscicki

Department: Psychology