Narrator: How do you react to stress? This is Science Today. Everyone responds differently to stress and, sometimes, not predictably.
Saslow: It's true. Stress reactivity is a really strange beast because there are some people that sweat the small stuff and then are fine in a big situation.
Narrator: Laura Saslow is a graduate student of social and personality psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
Saslow: There wasn't a good self-report questionnaire out there, in my opinion, that really tapped into people's tendency to freak out in a stressful situation, so we wrote one and it asked questions like, "I tend to go to pieces under a great deal of stress, I tend to react strongly to negative situations." And so, in a sense, this is the tonically high stress reactivity. It's not baseline — I'm kind of anxious, but it's when I'm in a stressful situation, I freak out. This self-reported scale was intended to tap into physiological stress reactivity, not how much you kvetch, but literally how much you freak out at a physiological level under stress.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.