Graduate Program

Clinical Psychology

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Jeffrey R. Stowell


Stress is an unavoidable aspect of human life, and despite a large body of research on stress, the relationship between chronic or traumatic stress and cognition is not yet fully explained. One component lacking research is visual attention, an area of visual cognition which is an essential part of our ability to interact with the world around us. This is especially true in the context of trauma and stress related disorders, and having a better understanding of how traumatic stress impacts attention and perception can inform psychotherapy for these issues. The current study aims to conceptualize how stressors impact the visual perception abilities of college students in a non-clinical population. Utilizing stimulus presentation software, student’s sustained attention, change blindness, and inattentional blindness was measured before and after exposure to either stress inducing or neutral tasks. Participants' preexisting stress levels were measured before engaging in the tasks, and performance of participants with both high and low preexisting stress were compared. Results suggest that acute stress may not have a significant impact on visual attention performance, but that chronic stress does appear to have a detrimental effect on sustained attention and change blindness.

Included in

Psychology Commons