Exams are difficult. We all know that. They are super stressful, and sometimes you have the feeling that failing them would risk your whole bachelor. Even though the exam stays the same, stress levels vary for everyone, and each person approaches them very differently. Some bravely tackle their study material heads on, already a month before the exam. Others spend their days watching Netflix, cleaning their room, or doing anything that helps them to avoid that nasty laptop with the lectures on it. Similar avoidance behaviours can be found in many other areas of life as well. No matter if it’s sending out application letters, telling the girl you like about your true feelings, or using this marvellous voice of yours to sing in front of an audience, some people are terrified by just thinking of it, and end up avoiding the task until it’s too late, while others seem to have no problem to approach these things. But why is this?
We, a student research team from Maastricht University, are fascinated by the fact that all the examples seem to have two things in common: They trigger stress and let failing appear very salient. To investigate this, we designed an experiment to show that stress and fear of failure influence avoidance behaviour. But how could you possibly test this, you wonder? Let us explain. We will take a group of our fellow students and let them rate their general fear of failure via a questionnaire. We then induce half of them with stress, while the others do a non-stressful task. Afterwards, the participants will have to make a choice. They can either sing the Korean song “Gangnam style” for 30 seconds while being recorded or avoid this embarrassing task by transcribing the lyrics for seven minutes. Think about it, what would you do? By analysing the choices of the participants, we can determine how fear of failure and stress influence avoidance behaviour independently. We’re already excited about what we’re going to find out. Stay tuned, and maybe we will find out why you avoid studying. Maybe it will show you the way to becoming an A-student.