Test anxiety, stress, and social support


  • Irwin G. Sarason

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Washington
    Search for more papers by this author
    • 1

      The research described was supported by the United States Office of Naval Research (Contract #N00014-75-C-0905, NR170-804). The contributions of Dan Nelson, Jack Norris, and Craig West are appreciated. The comments and suggestions of Stephen G. West and two anonymous reviewers are gratefully acknowledged.

Request for reprints should be directed to Irwin G. Sarason, Department of Psychology NI-25, University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. 98195.


Three experiments examined the relationships among test anxiety, stress, and social support. In the first experiment, social support was defined in terms of the opportunity for social association with peers. In the second, it was defined as contact with an experimenter who displayed acceptance and empathy. The dependent measure was the ability to solve difficult intellective problems. In the third, measures of both performance and self-preoccupation were obtained for groups differing in access to social association. Social support had an especially positive effect on the performance of highly test-anxious subjects and seemed to reduce self-preoccupation. The results were discussed in terms of the role played by social support in the ability to cope with stress.