Date of Award

1974

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

James O. Prochaska

Abstract

This study proposed to determine the effectiveness of systematic desensitization with integrative, symptom and dynamic hierarchies. It was hypothesized that systematic desensitization with integrative hierarchies would be more effective in reducing disruptive test anxiety than systematic desensitization with either symptom or dynamic hierarchies alone. It was further hypothesized that systematic desensitization with both integrative and dynamic hierarchies would be superior to systematic desensitization with symptom hierarchies in generalization to anxieties associated with test anxiety.

Forty-four test anxious college males were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups: 1) a symptom group treated with systematic desensitization based on cues related symptomatically to test anxiety; 2) a dynamic group desensitized with hierarchies based on the underlying dynamics of test anxiety; 3) an integrative group treated with systematic desensitization based on cues related both symptomatically and dynamically to test anxiety; and, 4) a no-treatment control group. Following four sessions of group desensitization, the symptom, dynamic and integrative groups all reported significant reductions on the Alpert-Haber Test Anxiety Scale, the Wonderlic Personnel Test and the Wolpe Fear Thermometer. The dynamic group yielded a significantly greater reduction in self-reported anxiety on the Wolpe Fear Thermometer than d id the symptom group. The integrative group also reported a significant reduction on the evaluative factor of the Wolpe Fear Inventory. These results indicate that systematic desensitization with symptom, dynamic or integrative hierarchies are each effective treatments of disruptive test anxiety. They also suggest that systematic desensitization with integrative hierarchies is effective in reducing general evaluative anxiety associated with the target symptom and may be a superior treatment overall. This study therefore supports an integrative theory (Stampfl and Levis, 1967; Prochaska, 1971; Hancur and Prochaska, 1973) which conceives of test anxiety as a combination of anxiety attached to both symptom and dynamic cues.

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