Animals as a stress reducer in an academic setting

Stress has been defined as a state of mental tension or something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety. Stress can influence a person’s behavior by making them more productive or negatively affect a person by reducing one’s concentration, motivation, or eating habits. Numerous factors impact a student’s academic work; public speaking is a common fear amongst all American’s and is typically seen in a college classroom. Animal assisted interventions have significant health benefits with improving physiological states within the human body when a person is stress. The current study aims to show whether or not the presences of a dog can reduce stress. If a dog is present during an evaluation situation in the classroom a student’s stress levels may be decreased, thus positively impacting their testing abilities. This thesis measures stress using four variables: blood pressure (systolic and diastolic), heart rate, nervous habits (operationally defined as sudden, repetitive, or non-rhythmic motor movement or vocalizations that are observable and inadvertently performed by the person being observed), and self-reported survey, State Trait Anxiety Inventory. Seventeen Undergraduate and graduate students at a state university in California were used as participants in this thesis. The results indicate the public speaking task was stress inducing with increases in heart rate, nervous habits, and STAI results.