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2022 | Jude Anderson

Jude Anderson from Onslow College, Wellington was presented with his Gold CREST award recently for his project on investigating the separate correlations between acute and chronic stress with cognitive skills: reasoning and working memory.

Mentor/Consultant: Suzanne Manning

Representative Teacher: Reece Geursen

Gold CREST medal presented by: Dr Brent Clothier FRSNZ

Jude's Executive Summary states: 

In the demanding and fast-paced environment that is college, it is easy for students/ākonga to become stressed. Cognitive skills/pukenga such as working memory/maumaharatanga and reasoning are the basic requirements for mental processes such as thinking, remembering, talking, learning/akoranga, reading and listening, and therefore are crucial for performing well in assessments and examinations. This study investigated if, and at what intensities, acute and chronic stress/kohuki become detrimental to the short-term cognitive performance of college students/ākonga. Participants were all taken from Year 12 in college, and data was collected on three different weeks. During each of the testing sessions, participants were asked to identify which type of stress/es – acute and/or chronic – they were experiencing, what type was most intense, and were given a perceived stress score form to determine their stress severity in the then current week. The assessment of participants’ working memory was done using a reversed digit span test, and their reasoning was assessed using a specialised grammatical reasoning test. The results of this study suggest that acute stress (whether being the only or most prominent stress experienced) has very little impact on the working memory and grammatical reasoning of college students. Comparatively, results suggest that an inverted “U” relationship/piringa is present between chronic stress and both grammatical reasoning and working memory, with performance peaking at moderate levels/taumata of chronic stress, especially for working memory. The results of this study could benefit the development of current assessment and testing methods in colleges. Future research could further investigate the relationship/piringa between chronic stress severities and cognition in college students, especially considering some inconsistency with past research and the small sample size of the study.