Does an electronic self-administered EMDR application reduce test-taking anxiety? A feasibility and comparative pilot study


anxiety is common form of anticipatory stress experienced individually in a group setting among students. Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) which theorizes that unprocessed material from the past influences present behaviors, thoughts, and outcomes was used as the theory to approach changing the relationship to anticipatory stress. Shapiro’s Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) was based on AIP to incorporate a series of eight stages to assist individuals in making new relationships to that unprocessed material to improve outcomes and self-beliefs as well as decrease disturbance of that material. A selfadministered EMDR Web Application (SEWA) was designed by the researcher to be used before an academic test to reduce anticipatory test-taking anxiety and increase positive self-belief. The purpose of this pilot study was to test a technological version of an EMDR instrument for calibration, feasibility, and efficacy. In Phase I, students identified that their desired self-belief before a test and daily was I got this. Students also identified one minute of exposure to a bilateral stimulus was the optimal time for students to attune to the application. This information was used to calibrate the instrument for the next phase of research. In Phase II, a cross-sectional 2x crossover study design was conducted with ninth grade algebra students as a class before an algebra examination (N=56). Feasibility was assessed in both phases to evaluate whether the electronic protocol was able to be carried out in a standard classroom setting. Observation indicated the protocol was easily conducted in all classes with sufficient time for administration of both the treatment as well as the administration of the algebra examination. The study subsequently tested how a minute of a self-administered electronic EMDR web application (SEWA) compared to intentional deep breathing (IDB) when attempting to reduce test-taking anxiety and increase positive self-belief. Phase II results showed that both interventions were effective to reduce disturbance of test anxiety as measured by Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUDS) to statistical significance (p=0.0019 at p<.05); however, there was no difference in efficacy between SEWA as compared to IDB. Validity of Cognition (VoC), how much someone believes I got this was analyzed using self-reported pre/post measurements. Results showed statistical significance in VoC when both classes were combined (p=0.0095) in increasing positive belief for both treatments, yet one treatment was not shown to be better than the other. Research questions were positive for feasibility and efficacy for SEWA; however, SEWA was no better than IDB after one minute of exposure for increasing VoC or decreasing SUDS. Limitations of Phase I include a limited set of positive statements from which to choose, a fixed tempo for which the ball bounces, and different devices were used in the last two classes as compared to the first three classes. Limitations to Phase II include small sample size at only one location. Findings suggest doing either deep breathing or electronic EMDR before a test for only one minute can be a cost effective as well as beneficial treatment to students before an academic examination. Either treatment can show a statistically significant increase in a student’s positive self-belief or decrease their test-taking anxiety. SEWA may offer an alternative to technology natives who may find comfort in using a device. Further research should be done with more participants in multiple locations and for different subjects. The application should also be tested for feasibility and efficacy in other settings with anticipatory stress like athletics, job interviews, arriving at an emergency, or preparing for a medical appointment.






Rocio Elisa Hernandez

Original Work Citation

Hernandez, R. E. (2015). Does an electronic self-administered EMDR application reduce test-taking anxiety? A feasibility and comparative pilot study. (Dissertation, University of California)



“Does an electronic self-administered EMDR application reduce test-taking anxiety? A feasibility and comparative pilot study,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed April 7, 2020,

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