The Effect of Therapy Dogs on Exam Stress and Memory
academic performance, memory, stress, therapy dogs
Therapy dogs have been shown in many different situations to reduce stress and improve outcomes, but their effects on academic performance are unknown. I hypothesized that interaction with therapy dogs prior to exams would reduce stress in students and improve exam scores. In study 1, participants who chose to interact with the therapy dogs showed a significantly larger stress decrease and scored 5.5 points higher on their final exam than those who did not interact. In study 2, investigating memory retrieval, participants assigned to interact with therapy dogs immediately prior to their final exam showed a marginally larger stress reduction, but no difference in exam score, compared with those who watched a movie about dogs. To investigate memory consolidation, in study 3, participants were assigned to interact with therapy dogs or watch a movie immediately after learning some material. A significant interaction between condition and exam question type suggests that, compared with those who watched a movie about dogs, interacting with therapy dogs impaired memory for material learned just prior to the manipulation, but enhanced memory for material encountered at other times. Overall, interaction with therapy dogs appears to reduce stress, but had no effect on memory retrieval in study 2, and differentially affected memory consolidation of associated material in study 3.
Trammell, Janet P., "The Effect of Therapy Dogs on Exam Stress and Memory" (2017). Pepperdine University, Faculty Open Access Publications. Paper 94.