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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


FERNANDEZ-CASTILLO, Antonio. Influence of sleep quantity and aggressiveness on anxiety during academics evaluation tests. Salud Ment [online]. 2009, vol.32, n.6, pp.479-486. ISSN 0185-3325.

The situation of academic evaluation has often been studied in relation to emotional alterations such as anxiety, stress or even fear. Possibly, aggressiveness may be another variable present in these situations. Aggressiveness seems to be present in different teaching activities as well as in all levels of the educational context, showing even more clearly in students with academic difficulties and especially when exposed to stressful situations. Various classical investigations have indicated for some time now that physical and verbal aggressiveness is more frequent in men than in women, and also more intense. The execution of academic tests is perceived as an aversive situation and often even as a threat, which may explain why they would be the cause of anxiety or stress. In fact, an intense emotional alteration could be present in nearly 25% of the students during the examination procedure; furthermore, exams are the most frequent evaluation method used in all educational levels. According to some studies, women seem to show higher levels of resources for coping with stressful situations, which would also be applied to circumstances of academic evaluation. Nevertheless, again in relation to gender differences, higher levels of anxiety have been found in women in comparison to men among university students before exams are carried out. In this situation the presence of aggressiveness does not seem to be clear. Although in the psychological environment there is no doubt of the negative effect which sleep deprivation has on different types of performance, we have observed with some frequency that university students tend to reduce sleep time days before an exam. The studies centred in the population of university students' quality of sleep have found that it quite often drops during this period. Thus, for example, in normal circumstances (not during exam periods), poor sleep quality can be found in approximately 30% of the university students. With this, we may suppose that the quality and the quantity could be even worse in exam periods. The quality of sleep has been studied frequently and also in relation to difficulties and psychological alterations. In the case of test anxiety, the correlation with the reduction of the quantity of sleep the previous night seems to be positive. Although multiple investigations have centred on the disrupting role that anxiety plays on the performance of exams, not many have focused on the relation between test-anxiety and aggressiveness in that situation, and even less so in circumstances of reduction of sleep hours. In the present work, we intend to determine first the possible presence of aggressiveness during the execution of exams in a sample of university students. At the same time, it was of our interest to establish a possible relation between sleep hours and the level of aggressiveness in that situation, keeping in mind that many students reduce sleep hours during this time, and specially the night before an exam. A second objective is to determine if different levels of aggressiveness may be related to different levels of test-anxiety. Thirdly, we try to seek differences between men and women's levels of aggressiveness while test circumstances, differences in aggressiveness in function of different age levels, as well as in function of different amount of time dedicated to sleep. In this study, 143 students aged 19-48 participated. The average age was 21.67, with a 3.79 standard deviation. Forty-two of the participants were men, 98 women and three of them did not consign their gender. All of them participated in the study just before beginning the execution of a final test in diverse subjects when they were already seated in the classroom. Aggressiveness was assessed with the reduced Spanish version of the Aggression Questionnaire (AQ). For the anxiety assessment, the Spanish version of the Spiel berger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was used, applying only the state scale. Additionally, participants were asked to note the hours of sleep they had had the previous night. The collection of data was carried out during a final exam, which assigned the final qualification in that subject. Several studies have shown the poor sleep quality in university students, being this significant characteristic a variable with possible and important implications in their quality of life, health, or even in their performance. Our data show that the average number of hours of sleep on the previous night to an exam was 6.43 (S.D. = 1.55), which indicates that the tendency to reduce the hours of sleep in this situation is a frequent habit among the university students being analyzed. Our descriptive results indicated that the levels of aggressiveness are not too high, although a certain degree does exist before the evaluation tests. The correlation analysis carried out indicates that having less hours of sleep the previous night is not associated with a higher level of aggressiveness [r = -.066 (p = .437)]. Nevertheless, when the sample was divided into two groups in function of the aggressiveness level, we found significative differences in the hours of sleep the previous night. The amount of sleep was higher in subjects with less aggressiveness. This result agreed with other studies that have found a relation between sleep deprivation and emotional alterations, specifically anxiety, or other psychological alterations. According to our data, the quantity of sleep had the previous night is related to the latter aggressiveness, and possibly with other aspects of this situation, like sensation of threat or anger. On the other hand, our data has shown significant differences in test-anxiety when we compared subjects with low and high levels of aggressiveness. The result indicates that subjects with high levels of aggressiveness showed higher levels of test-anxiety. This result agrees with those studies that have found an association between some varieties of emotional alterations, for example, social anxiety and aggressiveness and even one acceptable mediator role of social anxiety on social aggression. It has surprised us not to find significant differences between men and women's levels of aggressiveness, keeping in mind that this result goes against most studies that have verified these types of differences. Perhaps this result shows that in a specific threatening and aversive situation, such as an exam, women are able to show levels of latent aggressiveness as high those of as men. Furthermore, in the same way, this situation could create higher levels of aggressiveness in women students than many other daily situations could. Nevertheless, this conclusion is no more than a preliminary one and needs to be further investigated in the future. No significant differences were found between younger and older students' levels of aggressiveness. Although this result matches those obtained by other authors, in our case the reason for this might be the reduced number of age groups within the subjects. We interpret our results in the sense that sleeping less hours before an exam would perhaps be able to imply a worse performance in the test, even the possible presence of emotional alterations such as stress or anxiety, but would not imply significant differences in aggressiveness. The situation of examination in a university context, in function of our results, seems to be a quite specific context. Our study shows different results in contrast with the data on the effects sleep deprivation has on the psychological operation, as well as the patterns of latent aggressiveness found in other populations. The results of this line of investigation have practical implications on the teaching-learning processes, specifically in relation to evaluation as a fundamental element of them, as well as of the role that some psychological variables would perform in these procedures.

Palavras-chave : Aggressiveness; test anxiety; hours of sleep.

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