Mental arithmetic stress test is used widely to induce mental stress in laboratories. Can this test induce stress to those who are really good at mental calculation or enjoy mental math?


1 Answer 1


Stress is a very broad term. For instance, I'm doing tests on listening effort using pupillometry. Pupillometry measures pupil diameter which is correlated to stress. More stress means larger pupils. Effortful listening is also a form of stress and hence indeed also evoke a pupil response.

I'm focusing on cochlear implant (CI) users, and these folks even have a lot of trouble understanding speech, especially in noise. But even in total silence (no background noise, normal 65 dB speech) they need to mentally focus on the task at hand. Hence they have large pupil responses even under optimal listening conditions.

However, normal hearing (NH) folks show, on average, also a substantial response in silence, although smaller than CI wearers.

To extrapolate these findings to your case by drawing the parallel between NH listeners (math proficient) and CI users (math deficient), I can assure you that even mathophiles do show a stress response, even for relatively simple math assignments.

  • $\begingroup$ Mmmm. I'm not fully convinced you can extrapolate from these findings, but definitely related! $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Dec 2, 2019 at 18:29
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    $\begingroup$ @StevenJeuris - I know that it may be only loosely related, but there had been no answer for 2 months. But feel free to downvote, as it isn't really referenced either. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Dec 2, 2019 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ I simply stuck with no vote. 😉 $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Dec 2, 2019 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I chatted to a stress researcher the other day who swears by public speaking as their go-to stressor, reliably gets a good physiological stress response from most people while also ethical/easy to administer. YMMV re valence. What's the intended meaning of stress here? Skydiving, overwork, or phobias all seem like reasonable matches to the word 'stress' but it's probably useful to distinguish between them. Mental math seems more likely to be 'increased load / distraction' rather than 'sweaty palms', either of those could be interesting, just for different reasons. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2019 at 2:04

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