Abstract

The goal of the study is to examine the effectiveness of using an incentivized “test/retest” scenario to improve participants’ performance during stressful situations. The study makes use of an electroencephalography (EEG) machine to detect participants’ stress levels during a one-minute typing test. The typing test administered was a standard, “story-typing” test. A total of 23 student participants were randomly divided into two cohorts: the control cohort and the experimental cohort. Participants were asked to complete a preliminary questionnaire self-assessing their ability to handle stressful situations. Both cohorts were then asked to complete the typing test (hereafter referred to as T1) and fill out an Emotional Stress Reaction Questionnaire (ESRQ), indicating their emotions during the typing test. The participants were then asked to complete the typing test and accompanying ESRQ a second time (hereafter referred to as T2). However, prior to the second test, the participants in the experimental cohort were told that the participant that shows the most improvement in their typing speed (measured in words per minute) will receive a $100 gift card.

This stimulus is used to increase the already stressful situation for the experimental cohort and examine whether participants’ brain activity changes when the “retest” is incentivized. Each participant’s EEG data and heartrate were measured through the duration of the experiment and t-tests and regression analyses were used to determine if a statistically significant difference existed between cohorts (control vs. experimental) or within cohorts (T1 vs. T2).

The results show that there were no significant changes in brain activity, emotions, or typing performance for the control group of participants (no reward offered). However, the experimental group showed an increase in EEG sensor activity; specifically, the sensors that control vision and emotion. Interestingly, the participant’s performance was found to be correlated to their emotional responses, rather than their EEG sensor data. Additionally, the experimental groups’ positive emotions were increased for the second typing test, which is incentivized. The findings lay a foundation for design settings scenarios where preparatory practices can be incorporated.

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