Trauma as a predictive factory for performance under stress


Stress research has recently gained attention in the importance of adapting to life stressors as well as to temporary stressors created in a laboratory. Much attention has recently been paid to the influence of individual differences in their contribution to performance and adaptation to stressful situations. The contribution of individual differences ranges from personality characteristics such as extraversion and introversion, optimism or pessimism and even in some cases, clinical diagnoses. On the other hand, coping with traumatic stress and its potential long-term implication sparks much controversy in various fields of psychology. Certain views predict higher resilience to stress with the ability to rise above the occasion and triumph in spite of stress while other theories indicate a decline in productivity and an inability to cope with stress. The goal of the present study was to empirically examine the effect of long-term traumatic exposure on adaptation to stress. This project was designed to detect trauma and traumatic symptomology in a nonclinical sample. This was done in order to determine the effect of traumatic stress in an operational context. The premise for the research involves the complex interplay of encoding traumatic memories. It involves main theories of the traumatic memory argument and the trauma equivalency argument which subsequently argue for varying levels of prevalence for traumatic occurrences. The main implications investigated include the functionality of traumatized individuals under the stress of sustained attention in the maximal adaptability model in stress and performance research. In order to conduct the investigation of trauma and human adaptability in performance, there were considered 3 main groupings for traumatized individuals in accordance to their range of stressful experiences. All participants were asked to perform a sustained attention task. Seventy-five participants in the age range of 18-41 enrolled in the study through the Sona System website for class participation in their respective psychology classes. The investigation used measures of demographics, the Dissociative Experiences Scale, the Traumatic Events Questionnaire, the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist, the Dundee Stress State Questionnaire, Conner's Continuous Performance Task II, and the NASA Task Load Index to assess traumatic stress, subjective distress and workload as well as to impose stress through sustained attention. Results indicated that significant differences in measures of impulsiveness in traumatized individuals suggest a heightened awareness and hypervigilance in their reactivity to performance measures. Meanwhile, interactions in performance and gender suggest differences attributed to biological influence to the stress reaction. Gender differences, when isolated by male and female groups showed differences in omission, the absence of a correctly hit target, and hit rate for females while males exhibited more impact on attentional capacity. The pertinence of these findings maintain significant differences in the subjects included in this sample. However, the limitations of the research propose design and measurement strategy differences to further explore trauma's full and versatile impact in stress performance. Implications for this research extend to military optimization and selection as well as training methods. The findings of the project contribute to clinical intervention and understanding of trauma while expanding the literature and knowledge in the field of psychology.


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Thesis Completion



Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Sciences

Degree Program



Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences;Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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