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Brenda Hannon, Ph.D. & Mary McNaughton-Cassill, Ph.D., UTSA Department of Psychology

The rapid pace of social and technical change over the second half of the twentieth century has created an unprecedented emphasis on test performance in order to meet both personal expectations and personal economic goals. This has made performing well on a test an anxiety-provoking experience for many students--especially those who are members of ethnic minority groups. But why do students vary greatly in test anxiety? That is, what are the sources of individual differences in test anxiety? What are the relative contributions of each of these sources to test anxiety? And can the influences of these sources be mitigated once they are identified? Moreover, do ethnic minority groups, such as Hispanic students, share the same sources of test anxiety as European-American students? The objectives of this research are to answer these questions by looking at the relationships between test anxiety and test performance in conjunction with a number of potential contributing factors. These factors can be conceptualized along two broad dimensions:

  • Attitudes and beliefs that predispose students to test anxiety and poor performance (e.g., attributions and expectations for success or achievement, self-efficacy, self esteem, locus of control, irrational beliefs, and optimism/pessimism)

  • Learning and cognitive factors that influence performances on tests and, subsequently indirectly influence test anxiety (e.g., knowledge about learning, cognitive processes used for learning, and metacognitive skills)

We will also explore whether these two sources of individual differences in test anxiety and performance interact with socioeconomic and ethnic factors, which are known to influence a students’ educational experiences as well as their beliefs and attitudes about learning. This project represents the first critical step for integrating the two disparate dimensions of attitudes/beliefs and learning/cognition factors within the test anxiety and test performance literature. We anticipate that the results of this research will lay the foundation for future research that will examine the precursors to test anxiety (i.e., longitudinal studies) and factors that will potentially alleviate its depilating affects (i.e., intervention studies) in both Hispanic and Euro-American students.

Research Assistants: Jill Argus, UTSA graduate Political Science major; Erika Mora, UTSA undergraduate Psychology major; and Sarah Smith, UTSA undergraduate Psychology major


Deborah Mangold, Ph.D., UTSA Department of Psychology

Although studies have suggested that there is a higher prevalence rate of Interpersonal Partner Violence (IPV) in Hispanics compared to Whites and that Hispanics may be at a higher risk for the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), few studies have examined the relationship between IPV and PTSD in Mexican-American women. Moreover, while a handful of retrospective studies have demonstrated a relationship between PTSD and health problems in Hispanic males and females following exposure to trauma or combat, there are few well-controlled studies using laboratory methods to examine the effects of IPV exposure on health. Some investigators propose that PTSD mediates the relationship between trauma and health problems through alterations in underlying psychobiological mechanisms. The Allostasis Theory of PTSD suggests that alterations in these underlying mechanisms are caused by repeated, stress-induced demands for adaptation on the organism. The specific aims of this proposed study are:

  • Determine whether and to what extent severity of IPV and cumulative exposure to IPV predict health problems among female, Mexican American, victims of IPV.
  • Determine whether and to what extent severity of IPV and cumulative exposure to IPV predict physiological responses to a laboratory stressor that serve as markers of PTSD (i.e., sympathetic nervous system arousal), and to further determine whether these physiological responses mediate the relation between IPV exposure and health problems.
  • Determine whether and to what extent the addition of specific risk factors, including culturally specific factors (i.e., acculturation) in addition to other pre-IPV risk factors (i.e., familial history of violence) are associated with alterations in physiological responses to a laboratory stressor in female, Mexican-American victims, with and without PTSD.

Research Assistants: Lori Kinkler and Nathan Kinney, UTSA undergraduate Psychology majors