Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Advisor

James O. Prochaska


This study purported to determine the effectiveness of symptom and dynamic cues in the systematic desensitization of test anxiety. It was hypothesized that both symptom and dynamic cues would be effective in reducing disruptive test anxiety and that dynamic desensitization would be superior to symptom desensitization in reducing general anxiety.

Twenty-two test anxious college males were randomly assigned to one of three treatment groups: 1) a symptom group treated with systematic desensitization based on cues related symptomatically to test anxiety; 2) a dynamic group desensitized with cues based on the underlying dynamics of test anxiety; or, 3) a no-treatment control group. Following four sessions of group desensitization, the symptom and dynamic groups reported significant reductions in anxiety on the Wolpe Fear Thermometer and Wolpe Fear Inventory. The dynamic group reported additional significant reductions on the Alpert-Haber Test Anxiety Scale and the Wonderlic Personnel Test. The no-treatment group reported no significant reductions in test anxiety across any of the measures. There was no differential anxiety reduction between the symptom and dynamic groups on any of the measures. These results indicate that systematic desensitization utilizing either symptom or dynamic cues is an effective treatment of disruptive test anxiety. They further suggest that dynamic desensitization may be superior to symptom desensitization alone and lend support to an integrative theory (Stampfl and Levis, 1967; Prochaska, 1970) which conceives of overall test anxiety as a combination of anxiety attached to both symptom and dynamic cues.



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