Adverse effects of muscle relaxation and imagery training on test anxiety

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Clinical Psychology

First Committee Member

Donald K. Routh, Committee Chair

Second Committee Member

F. Daniel Armstrong, Committee Member


This study was designed to address the efficacy of relaxation training as a treatment for test anxiety. There has been a longstanding hypothesis that test anxiety is a detriment to performance, and may be modified through relaxation training in such a way that performance is enhanced. The relaxation literature, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that placebo groups often respond no differently than training groups. There has furthermore been no clear evidence to support the use of one type of training over another. This study contrasted the effects of training with the effects of placebo treatment on newly graduated law students preparing for the Bar Exam.Two forms of training were employed (Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Imagery), as well as two forms of placebo treatment (Music and No Treatment). No differences were found between the two forms of training. Likewise, no differences were found between the two forms of placebo treatment. There were, however, differences between the training and placebo groups. The scores for the Treatment groups actually increased on the Test Anxiety Inventory-Worry Scale. Furthermore, the scores for the Treatment groups on the Achievement Anxiety Test-Debilitative Scale failed to decrease as much as the scores for the Placebo groups did. Finally, both Training and Placebo groups demonstrated an overall decrease in somatic, state, and apparent physiological arousal, as measured by the Test Anxiety Inventory-Emotionality Scale, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory-State Scale, and Relaxation Checklist, respectively.It was concluded that for this population, relaxation training may actually produce adverse effects. Hypotheses regarding these unexpected results are discussed within the context of the relaxation-induced anxiety model.


Education, Educational Psychology; Psychology, Clinical

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