How does the process work? "At the general level it's thought to bolster students' sense of self and reestablish a sense of value," Ito said of values affirmation. "It reminds them what they stand for."
Beilock suggests that test anxiety uses up "working memory" in the brain, and that writing about the anxiety releases more memory to concentrate on the test.
"When they write, students might reappraise the situation—thinking about what has to be done, rather than what they might lose," Beilock said.
The approach can have wide application beyond test preparation. In her book "Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting it Right When You Have To," Beilock asserts that the opportunity to write about fears can help reduce anxiety for individuals facing a range of high-pressure situations in which they must perform well—everything from a job interview to taking a penalty kick in soccer.
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