Date of Award

Spring 2016

Thesis Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Honors Bachelor of Arts




Dr. Andrew Luchner

Committee Member

Dr. Alice Davidson

Committee Member

Dr. John Houston


Mental toughness research aims to understand how two people of the same skill level, experience, and background react to pressure and stress, with one succumbing to the pressure while another succeeds (Clough & Strycharczyk, 2012). This study used Clough, Earle, and Sewell’s (2002) four C’s of mental toughness (commitment, challenge, control, and confidence) as a theoretical framework. The current study aims to explore physiological aspects of mental toughness through cortisol, a stress hormone that is released as an internal reaction to some type of threat occurring externally to the body (Kottler & Chen, 2011). The relationships between mental toughness and other personality constructs (self-efficacy and grit) were also explored. Sixty-three participants were recruited from a small liberal arts college to take a questionnaire consisting of the Dispositional Resilience Scale (DRS; Bartone, 2007), the General Self-Efficacy Scale (GSE; Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995), and the Grit Scale (Grit; Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007). Participants then engaged in both a physically and cognitively stressing task. Saliva samples were taken to assess cortisol levels at the beginning and end of the study. There was a significant negative correlation between reported stress change and cortisol change (r = -.257, p < .05). There was a positive correlation approaching significance between control and change in cortisol (r = .240, p = .062). Findings show that those who produced more cortisol, self-reported less stress and had a greater feeling of control of their lives. The study’s findings may suggest that mental toughness is the ability to alter the perception of stress regardless of the sensation.

Rights Holder

Alexis Satterwhite