SWAP - Public Speaking Study

Many people find speaking in public to be stressful, and for some this can even cause them to drop courses involving presentations or to perform poorly when required to give a speech in class. Over the longer term, people suffering from fear of public speaking may be held back in the work place and not reach their true potential, and can be frustrated by their fear in their personal lives.

As part of a continued line of research on a potential new treatment for a range of specific fears and phobias at the UvA, we have been investigating whether the administration of the beta-blocker propranolol after fear reactivation can lead to reductions in fear of public speaking. While a systematic and highly controlled study is ongoing, we also wish to assess whether such an intervention can be effective when delivered in more naturalistic settings. The presentations you are required to do as part of the SWAP course are an opportunity to test this possibility, while also potentially helping to tackle a common fear of students. 

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What does the experiment involve?

As this experiment may involve receiving propranolol (a commonly used beta-blocker), you will first undergo a brief medical screening to check that you are eligible to take part. A link to the medical screener and baseline questions to assess your fear is provided on this page. In addition to the information in the screening, we will check your heart rate and blood pressure.

For this experiment, you will be asked to give a brief presentation in front of the class, as is usual for involvement in the SWAP course. After your speech, you will be given a single pill of propranolol (or placebo). Based on the concept of 'memory reconsolidation', the idea is that delivering your speech can reactivate and destabilise the fear network in your brain that supports your anxiety. Propranolol disrupts the restabilisation of this network that would usually occur, potentially resulting in a reduction in your fear in the future.

At the end of the SWAP course, you will give another brief presentation in front of a small audience, to assess whether or not taking part in this intervention has resulted in any changes in your fear of public speaking. As both your initial and second speech will be recorded for research purposes, you will also be able to receive a recording of your speeches that you can use to assess your own performance and develop further as a speaker.

You will also be required to fill out some brief questionnaires before and in the weeks/months after the treatment session and the end of the SWAP course to track your progress.

What will happen if I don't participate?

Though of course we encourage you to participate, participation is completely voluntary, and there will be no negative consequences for you if you choose not to participate. Your participation in the SWAP course will not be affected in any way.

People who do not participate in the experiment will nevertheless be asked to give a presentation as part of the SWAP course. You would not receive compensation and would not be able to receive recordings of your performance (as your presentations will not be recorded).


For your participation in this study, you will receive 25 euro.

Further information

If you wish to receive any further information or ask further questions about the study, you can ask the lead experimenter, Jamie Elsey: j.w.b.elsey@uva.nl

The link below also includes a download of the official information brochure.

Anonymity and Privacy

In the screening questionnaire you will fill in some personal and medical information. This information is only collected so that we can see if you are eligible to take part in this investigation and to provide some baseline indications of your psychological state for research purposes. For more information about the collection and processing of personal data at the UvA and your privacy you can look up: http://www.uva.nl/home/disclaimers/privacy.html