Stressed by Trier

POSTED: January 8, 2021

On Monday, while recording Episode 51 of Meanwhile in an Abandoned Warehouse, Sophie Hope and I talked about some of the issues that have arisen with the move to online learning. In particular we discussed what happens if either of us finds ourselves lecturing on Zoom to a group who have decided to turn their screens off as well as their microphones. We talked about how it becomes difficult to keep any energy up in those circumstances, and how it quickly starts to feel dispiriting.

Today, in another (online) conversation, I discovered why. Talking to a group of people who have established a situation in which you cannot get any feedback at all closely resembles taking part in a Trier Stress Test.

Created in 1993 at the University of Trier by Clemens Kirschbaum and colleagues, this set of protocols reliably induces stress in human research participants. The first part of the test involves preparing and giving a presentation to a table of judges who watch with specially trained poker faces, providing no responses whatsoever to any attempted humour, or emphasis. They offer no encouragement and meet any attempts at eye contact with blank stares.

This simple lack of feedback induces stress in almost all subjects. And that, I thought explains some of what I have felt after some online classes. I now need to find a way to circumvent the effects of the Trier Test.

I need to develop an anti-Trier strategy.