Electroencephalography (EEG) as Physiological Measure of Psychological State in Educational Contexts

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Psychological states during educational experiences, such as motivation and stress levels, are primarily evaluated using self-report questionnaires. Questionnaires can be easily formulated to ask specific questions on abstract topics but are limited to a low sampling frequency of one per defined reporting period and are completed afterwards; therefore, they are subject to recall cognitive biases. Physiological measures such as heart-rate variability and electrodermal activity are continuous, real-time and mind-independent methods of understanding general psychological stress in educational contexts. However, these physiological measures are not specific to particular psychological states and do not inform which classroom stimulus mediates the physiological response. As a result, combining physiological and self-report-based methods aims to retain the advantage of each and maintain ecological validity.

Electroencephalography (EEG) is comparatively low-cost with relatively high temporal resolution. Voltage signals from comfortably positioned dry electrodes are decomposed into frequency bands, and the relative electrical activity within each frequency band corresponds with stress (waking, alertness and sensory perceptibility) levels, cognitive workload and focus levels, and, as suggested by recent evidence, emotional valence.

This presentation describes a completed pilot study with eight adult participants that verifies EEG monitoring as an ambulatory, non-invasive measure of stress, cognitive workload, focus, and emotion, which are all conceptually correlated with psychological motivation and stress states. Particular attention is given to the experimental design, data processing and analysis.