The Relationship Between Stress and Memory in an Undergraduate Population


The purpose of the current study was to investigate the relationship between self-reported stress, a physiological measure of stress, and memory performance on neuropsychological tests. There is a growing body of research that suggests that there may be certain types of stress that affect structures in the brain that are critical for memory processes like encoding and retrieval. Research that has investigated endocrine measures of stress, namely levels of corticosteroids in the brain, suggest that structures like the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex may be negatively affected by prolonged increased levels of cortisol.

The current study used two stress measures, the Trier Inventory of Chronic Stress (TICS-S) and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) to measure self-reported stress in 28 undergraduate students. In addition, participants completed an anxiety measure (The Beck Anxiety Inventory) and had their peripheral skin temperature monitored. Selected tests from the Wechsler Memory Scale Third Edition (WMS-III) were used to measure memory performance. It was hypothesized that higher scores on the self-report stress and anxiety measures would relate to lower scores (poorer performance) on select memory tasks primarily on measures of verbal memory. A secondary hypothesis was that individuals with lower peripheral skin temperatures, which signifies higher stress, would perform more poorly on memory tests and have higher levels of self-reported stress. Results revealed one statistically significant correlation- between the PSS and the Digit Span Forward subtest score from the WMS-III. As individuals self-reported higher stress levels over the past month, accuracy scores on the Digit Span Forward test decreased, suggesting that simple focal attention may be more sensitive to stress than the other memory tasks administered. Results also suggest a need for further research investigating this relationship.


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Thesis Completion





Bedwell, Jeffrey


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program



Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences; Memory; Stress (Physiology); Stress (Psychology)







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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