PSYA2 Complete Revision NotesWatch
What is Stress?
Selye - He defined stress as ‘the non-specific response of the body to any demand’. In other words stress is a generalised reaction to a demand placed on the body.
The Body’s Response to Stress:
Sympathetic Adrenal Medullary (SAM) System (fast acting)
The hypothalamus activates the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which stimulates the adrenal medulla, which leads to the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline (fight or flight). This leads to the physiological changes associated with stress, e.g. increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, sweating and shaking.
Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis (slow acting)
Also, the hypothalamus sends messages to the pituitary gland, which leads to the production of the hormone ACTH. This stimulates the adrenal cortex, which then produces cortisol (a stress hormone). This provides the steady flow of fuel necessary to deal with the demands of the situation.
Stress and Physical Illness
Stress and Cardiovascular Disorders (Friedman and Rosenman)
· To test the hypothesis that Type A individuals (a high-stress personality type) were more likely to develop coronary heart disease than Type B’s (relatively relaxed individuals).
· This was based on their observations as cardiologists that their patients displayed a common behaviour pattern consisting of three key components: impatience, competitiveness and hostility.
· A self-selected sample of nearly 3200 Californian men aged between 39-59 years was used
· This was a prospective, longitudinal study, as the P’s were healthy at the start in 1960 and were assessed over a period of 8½ years.
· Part one of the study included structured interview and observation, which assessed their personality type and current health status.
· Personality type was determined by the amount of impatience, competitiveness and hostility reported and observed during the interview and from their answers to the questions.
· On the basis of the Structured Interview, P’s were classified as A1 (type A), A2 (not fully type A), X (equal amount of A and B) or B (fully Type B).
· Part two of the study was the follow up 8 years later when incidence of CHD was recorded.
· A correlational analysis was carried out to test the association between Type A/B behaviour pattern and CHD
· Out of 3200 healthy men, 257 were found to have developed CHD during the 8½ years 70% of whom had been classified Type A.
· The number of Type A individuals with CHD was nearly more than double of Type B individuals who had CHD. This remained even when other factors (blood pressure, smoking and obesity), which are know to be associated with heart disease, were taken into account
· The research shows that Type A behaviour pattern is fairly strongly linked to CHD.
· Friedman and Rosenman concluded that the Type A behaviour pattern increases the individuals experiences of stress, which increases physiological reactivity, and that in turn increases vulnerability to CHD
· + The findings were confirmed in another large-scale longitudinal study, which involved both men and women.
· + Studies using the structured interview with healthy populations reported a strong correlation between Type A behaviour and CHD, supporting the initial finding of a link between the two.
· + It allows us to see a link between personality type and CHD, and people can act on the information.
· - The research lacked validity as it did not precisely measure was what it aimed to, as Type A behaviour pattern consists of a number of characteristics so it is too broad to be useful, because it is not clear which aspect of Type A is most strongly associated with CHD
· - Later research by Matthews et al, who re analysed the data, found that the hostility component of Type A correlated highest with CHD. Therefore, hostility, rather than Type A in general, may explain the findings.
· - A cause and effect relationship cannot be determined, as the variables are not under the control of the researcher (causation can only be determined when an IV has been manipulated). This means that it cannot be said that Type A personality type causes CHD, and so conclusions are limited.
· - A problem with this study is that as soon as the individual knows they are at risk of CHD, they may engage in behaviours that modify the risk, such as giving up smoking or doing more exercise. This could create lower correlations between the two variables.
Stress and the Immune System
There is increasing evidence that stress can cause illness by impairing the workings of the immune system. This system acts like an army, identifying and killing any intruders to the body. It consists of cells distributed throughout the body that fight disease.
· The cells within the immune system are known as white blood cells; these cells identify and destroy foreign bodies such as viruses.
· The presence of viruses leads to the production of antibodies.
· Antibodies are secreted by T cells.
· Prolonged stress shrinks the thymus gland.
· This is responsible for the production of killer, memory and T-helper cells which fight infection
· Shrinking the thymus leads to fewer T cells making the immune system less effective
Stress and the Immune System (Kiecolt-Glaser et al):
· To establish a link between stress and reduced immune functioning
· This was based on the assumption that the body’s response to stress decreases immune functioning
· They aimed to establish a difference in immune response between conditions of high and low stress.
· They also aimed to see if other factors such as psychiatric symptoms, loneliness, and life events were associated with immune functioning
· 75 first-year medical students (49 males and 26 females) volunteered (a self-selected sample).
· This was a natural experiment because the IV (the level of stress due to exams) was naturally occurring.
· A repeated measures design was used, with P’s blood samples being taken one month before their final exams (low stress condition) and again on the first day of their final exams (high stress condition)
· The number of natural killer cells and T cells were measured as indicators of immune functioning (the DV), with a high number indicating better immune functioning.
· On both occasions, the students were given questionnaires measuring psychiatric symptoms, loneliness or stressful life events
· Natural killer and T cell activity declined between the low-stress and high-stress conditions
· Therefore, the findings confirm the assumption that stress is associated with reduced immune functioning.
· The findings from the questionnaires revealed that immure responses were particularly suppressed in P’s who reported that they were experiencing psychiatric symptoms, loneliness or stressful life events
· The research shows that stress is associated with immunosuppression and that the effect is stronger when there are multiple sources of stress.
· A number of different sources of stress were shown to contribute to reduced immune functioning; exams, psychiatric symptoms, loneliness, and life events were all implicated.
· However, only associations were established. Implications include the importance of stress management to immune functioning.
· + Because this was a natural study, there are fewer ethical objections.
· + An advantage of this study is that the choice of IV (exam stress) is a long-term form of stress. In previous studies, stress had been artificially induced, which is likely to produce a different type of stress to stress, which is experienced naturally.
· - This was a natural experiment, meaning that the IV was not under the control on the experimenter. As a result, cause and effect cannot be established as the IV is not controlled or isolated (causation can only be established when an IV has been directly manipulated). Therefore it cannot be established that stress causes the immunosuppression.
· - It is important to note that the functioning of the immune system of nearly all the students was still within the normal range, even in the higher stress condition.
· - The immune system is very complex, and so it is hard to be sure that it’s functioning was actually impaired in the higher stress condition. This means that the reliability and the validity of the measure are questionable.
Sources of Stress
Stressful Life Events
Holmes and Rahe developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale as a way of scoring a persons life events and their potential to become ill. The events can be positive as well as negative. What is important is the amount of change the event would lead to and therefore the amount of readjustment required by the individual.
EVALUATION of the Social Readjustment Scale
· The SRRS tends to muddle together many different kinds of experience, which will not affect everyone in the same way.
· Different events may affect people differently, which may explain the weak correlation found. For example, retirement may be a dramatic change for some people but not for others.
· Individual differences such as coping skills, past experiences and physical strength all effect the way an event will affect you.
· There could be other intervening variables involved. For example, it may be that certain individuals do find life events stressful because they are vulnerable personalities and the reason they become ill may be due to their personality rather than the event.
Life Changes (Rahe et al):
· To test the hypothesis that the stress of life events was correlated with illness
· This followed up research by Holmes and Rahe who had observed that patients tended to have experienced critical life events in the months prior to the onset of illness.
· Life events were defined as positive or negative events, which disrupted normal routines and so required social readjustment
· An investigation of 2500 male US naval personnel took place over a period of six months
· A self-report questionnaire measured the number of life events, which was based on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) constructed by Holmes and Rahe.
· This consisted of 43 life events, which had assigned to it a value (or life change unit (LCU), based on how much readjustment the event would need
· P’s were asked to indicate how many of the life events they had experienced in the past six months
· A total life change unit score (stress score) was calculated for each P by adding up the LCU’s of each life event.
· A health record was also kept of each P during the six months tour of duty
· A correlational analysis was carried out to test the association between total LCU’s and incidence of illness
· A significant positive correlation of +0.118 was found between the LCU score and illness (as LCU’s increased, so did incidence of illness).
· The direction of the correlation was positive and the strength of the relationship was weak. The association was small but significant.
· The findings suggest that the stress of life events is correlated with physical illness.
· The correlation appears weak: if the total LCU score was always associated with illness a perfect positive correlation of +1.0 would have been found. If there was no association, the correlation coefficient would have been 0. The correlation coefficient +0.118 is much closer to 0 than +1, but in a sample of 2500 this is a significant correlation.
· Implications include the importance of using stress management techniques when experiencing life events.
· + It gives us information about the link between stress and life events; therefore we can teach stress management techniques to those experiencing them.
· - This study used the correlational method. As a consequence, cause and effect cannot be identified, therefore, it cannot be said that life events cause illness, so conclusions are limited.
· - In many cases, it is likely that illness helped to cause certain life events rather than life events helped to cause illness. For example, two of the life events of the SRRS are change in eating habits and change in sleeping habits, and it is possible that physical illness would produce these changes. Therefore, the direction of effect is not clear.
· - The sample was biased because only American men were investigated. Therefore, the sample was ethnocentric (as only one culture was sampled) and androcentric (as only males were sampled).
· - The fact that such a restricted sub-group was sampled means that the findings are not representative of the wider population (e.g. other cultures/women). The findings may not even be representative of the target population, as a random sample of American naval men was not taken. Therefore, the research may lack population validity.
· + A correlational study means that we can research this area, which would be impossible to manipulate.
· + It has higher mundane realism and therefore it has greater external validity
· - DeLongis found that daily hassles correlated more strongly with illness than life events. BUT there was a correlation with life events that had occurred in the previous year of a individual’s life.
Workplace Stressors (Marmot et al):
· To investigate the association between workplace stress and stress-related illness in male and female civil servants
· This was part of the Whitehall studies, where a number of different psychosocial characteristics of work were investigated to test their association with illness
· This particular investigation focused on the negative correlation between job control and stress-related illness
· A sample of 10,308 civil servants aged 35-55 (6895 men – 67%, and 3413 women – 33%) were investigated in a longitudinal study over 3 years.
· Research methods included questionnaires and observation.
· Job control (an aspect of workplace stress) was measured through both a self-report survey and by independent assessments of the work environment by personnel managers.
· Job control was assessed on two occasions, three years apart.
· Records were also kept of stress-related illness.
· A correlational analysis was carried out to test the association between job control and stress-related illness.
· P’s with low job control were four times more likely to die of a heart attack than those with high job control.
· They were also more likely to suffer from other stress-related disorders such as cancers, strokes, and gastrointestinal disorders.
· These findings were consistent on both occasions that job control was measured and the association was still significant after other factors, such as employment grade, negative attitude to employment, job demands, social support and risk factors for CHD had been accounted for.
· The findings seem to show that low job control is associated with high stress, as indicated by the number of stress-related illness.
· There is an inverse social gradient in stress-related illness among British Civil Servants; as job control decreases, illness increases. In other words, the variables are negatively correlated.
· Implications include the responsibility of employers to address job control as a source of stress and illness. Giving employees more freedom and control may decrease stress-related illness which would increase efficiency in workplace
· The self-report method is vulnerable to investigator effects and P reactivity bias. The questions may give cues as to the aim of the research and so create an expectancy effect. The P’s may have guessed that an association between job control and stress-related illness was being looked for, and so reported low job control if suffering from illness and high job control if not. Similarly, the observations made by the personnel managers could be biased by an expectancy effect.
· Weaknesses of the correlational method mean that there is no control over the variable (job control), which makes interpretations difficult as cause and effect cannot be established (causation can only be established when an IV is directly manipulated). Therefore, it cannot be said that low job control causes stress-related illness; only that an association can be established. This lack of control also means that other factors such as personality and coping skills may be involved in the association.
· The jobs performed by those high and low in control differed in several ways other than simply control. For example, those having high levels of job control generally earn more money, have more interesting jobs, have more opportunity for interpersonal contact, than those having low levels of job control. We do not know which of these factors is most closely associated with heart disease.
Individual Differences - Modifying the effects of Stressors
A key consideration of factors that cause stress is the way that different individuals react – ‘individual differences’. These may be innate differences, or may be explained in terms of learning; through conditioning and modelling one’s behaviour on others. Differences may also be explained by cultural styles that are also learned.
How Personality Modifies the Effects of Stress:
Personality (Types A, B and C):-
In the 1950’s, two cardiologists, Friedman and Rosenman proposed three personality types:
1. Type A – are competitive, ambitious, impatient, restless and pressured
2. Type B – lack these characteristics and are generally more relaxed
3. Type C – are nice, industrious, conventional sociable, but tend to be repressed and react to stress or threat with a sense of helplessness
Friedman and Rosenman argued that individuals with the Type A pattern of behaviour are more stressed than Type B, and so are more likely to suffer from CHD
Type C and Cancer
Temoshok suggests that type C individuals cope with stress in a way that ignores their own needs, in order to please others and that this has negative physiological consequences. He states that they repress their stressors and eventually such stressors take their toll.
Temoshok suggest that type C is associated with cancer when stressors are consistent as this affects the immune system and increases the risk of cancer.
The ‘Hardy’ Personality
Kobasa suggested that some people are more ‘psychologically ‘hardy’ than others, and this hardiness enables them to cope better with stress.
According to Kobasa, ‘hardy’ individuals have certain characteristics and that ‘hardiness’ could be taught and used as a stress management technique. The characteristics are as follows:
1. Commitment – hardy individuals are more involved in what they do and have a direction in life. They find meaning in their work and personal relationships.
2. Challenge – Hardy individuals view potentially stressful situations as a challenge and an opportunity, rather than a problem or a threat.
3. Control – Hardy individuals have a stronger sense of personal control. They feel they are able to influence events in their lives.
· + Kobasa’s view was supported by a large-scale study she undertook with highly stressed men who worked as managers for a large company:
* Individuals who had high scores on hardiness, and who also exercised a lot, had the least illness.
· - Hardiness is quite difficult to assess
· - The sample was bias; the participants were white, middle-class business men
· - A cause and effect relationship cannot be established, as the results were correlational.
· + The concept of hardiness has been used as a means of coping with stress.
Physiological Stress Management
· The body produces chemicals (hormones) that create anxiety, which can be countered by using other chemical substances (i.e. drugs) to reduce anxiety. These are called anti-anxiety drugs.
· Stress levels can be reduced using these drugs
· BZ’s are the most used anti-anxiety drugs; Valium and Librium.
· BZ’s work by slowing down the activity of the central nervous system
· They do this by enhancing the activity of a natural biochemical substance called GABA, which is the body’s natural form of anxiety relief.
· This enhancement is achieved in several ways:
1. GABA slows down nerve cell activity, and allows chloride ions into neurons, slowing down the activity of the neuron. This causes relaxation.
2. GABA also reduces serotonin activity. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that has an arousing effect. People with anxiety need to reduce levels of serotonin, which is what GABA does, causing reduced anxiety.
· BZ’s imitate the activity of GABA and thus reduce arousal of the nervous system and reduce anxiety.
· Reduce activity it the sympathetic nervous system.
· Stress leads to the arousal of the SNS and this creates increased blood pressure and heart rate
· Beta blockers have a direct action on the heart and circulatory system, reducing heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
· Anti-anxiety drugs can be tested to see if they work. One way to assess effectiveness is to compare outcomes when some anxious patients are given a drug and others are given a placebo.
· One of the greatest appeals of using drug treatment for stress is that the therapy requires little effort from the user. They just have to remember to take the pills.
· They can be very effective at reducing intense feelings of stress.
· Drugs may be effective in treating symptoms, but this lasts only as long as the drugs are taken. It cannot be used as a long term solution. As soon as you stop taking them, the effectiveness ceases. It doesn’t address the problem causing the stress.
· There are side effects, such as drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, weakness, dry mouth, diarrhoea, upset stomach or more severely, seizures. BZ’s are particularly addictive and Beta Blockers are psychological addictive.
· This deals with the physiological symptoms of stress, such as raised blood pressure an increased muscle tension, which are involuntary.
· We are unable to control them because they are governed by our Autonomic Nervous System.
· Biofeedback is a method by which an individual learns to exert voluntary control over involuntary behaviours by being made aware of what is happening in the ANS
· Biofeedback involves four processes:
1. Feedback – The patient is attached to various machines, which provide information about ANS activity. For example, the patient can hear their heartbeat.
2. Relaxation – The patient is taught techniques of relaxation, which have the affect of reducing the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The result should be reduced heart rate and other symptoms associated with stress
3. Operant conditioning – Relaxation leads to a target behaviour, such as decreased heart rate. This is rewarding which increases the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated. Such learning takes place without conscious thought
4. Transfer - The patient then needs to transfer the skills learned to the real world
· Biofeedback has been found to be successful in treating a wide range of behaviours, such as heart rate, blood pressure and brain waves.
· It has also been effective with disorders such as migraine headaches and asthma
· Bradley compared the effectiveness of using biofeedback versus relaxation to control muscle tension headaches. The biofeedback group were given seven 50-minute sessions with feedback about muscle activity. After treatment the biofeedback group had significantly fewer headaches than the relaxation group.
· There are also no side effects with biofeedback. It is not an invasive technique. In other words, it does not alter the body in any permanent way as drugs do. The only affects are increased relaxation, which is desirable.
· Provides the patient with a potentially long-lasting means of dealing with stress symptoms by applying relaxation techniques.
· The technique requires specialist equipment, which means that it is expensive and can only be undertaken with specialist supervision.
· If the success of biofeedback is mainly due to relaxation rather than feedback and conditioning, there is no need for the expensive and time consuming procedures
· The aim is to reduce the symptoms associated with stress; it does not treat the source of stress, such as workplace tension.
Psychological Stress Management
Stress – inoculation
· Meichenbaum’s cognitive therapy, called stress-inoculation training, was developed especially to deal with stress.
· Meichenbaum proposed three main stages to this process:
1. Assessment – The therapist and client establish a relationship, and the client is educated about the nature and impact of stress. For example, the client is taught to view perceived threats as problems to be solved and to break down stressors into components that can be dealt with. This enables the client to reconceptualise the problem.
2. Stress Reduction Techniques – Coping skills are taught and practiced primarily in the clinic and then gradually rehearsed in real life. A variety of skills are taught and are tailored to the individuals’ own problems. These include positive thinking, relaxation, social skills and time management. The skills taught are both cognitive and behavioural because they encourage the client to think in a different way, and because they involved learning new behaviours through rewards (conditioning).
3. Application (and follow-through) – Clients are given opportunities to apply the newly learned coping skills in different situations, which become increasingly stressful. Various techniques may be used such as imagery, modelling and role-playing. Booster sessions are offered later on.
· Meichenbaum claims that stress inoculation has been shown to be successful with acute and chronic stressors.
· Examples of acute stressors that have been treated with SIT include preparing for public speaking.
· Examples of chronic stressors that have been treated with SIT include medical illness, occupational stress, and stressful events.
· This method of stress management offers skills to cope with current problems, and also skills and confidence to cope with future problems.
· The focus on skills acquisition provides long-lasting effectiveness.
· Skills are taught, practiced and followed through. They are also dealt with on a cognitive and behavioural level, and tailored to the needs of the individual.
· More generalisability across different situations
· The training programme requires a lot of time, effort, motivation and money
· The complexity of learning and practicing many new skills makes it a lengthy therapy, which would suit only a limited range of determined individuals.
· It may be that the effectiveness of SIT is due to certain elements of the training, not all of it.
· This means that the range of activities and time could be reduced without losing much of the effectiveness. For example, it might be equally effective to just learn to talk more positively and relax more.
· Requires self discipline and commitment
Increasing Hardiness - Training
· Kobasa argued that the concept of hardy personality could be turned into a stress management technique.
· The three components of a hardy personality, commitment, control and challenge, will result in a reduced physiological arousal to potential stressors.
· Reduced arousal means reduced blood pressure and stress related illness.
· Maddi introduced a training programme, which aims to increase self-confidence and sense of control so that individuals can deal more successfully with change. Maddi and Kobasa suggested the following ways to train:
1. Focusing – The client is taught how to recognise signs of stress, such as muscle tension and increased heart rate and to identify the sources of the stress
2. Reliving / Reconstructing stress encounters – The client relives stress encounters and is helped to analyse his or her stress situations. This helps the client to an understanding of current stressors and current coping strategies.
3. Self-improvement – The insights gained can now be used to move forwards and learn new techniques. In particular the client is taught to focus on seeing stressors as challenges and thus learn to take control. Control, commitment and challenge are the basis of hardiness training.
· Maddi et al assessed the progress of 54 managers in a hardiness training programme, comparing this with a relaxation/meditation condition and a placebo/social support control.
· The hardiness training condition was more effective than the other two conditions in increasing self-reported hardiness, job satisfaction and social support while decreasing self-reported strain and illness severity.
· Hardiness training teaches individuals to manage all stressors in their lives, not just a particular set of symptoms related to a particular problem.
· This makes it a much more adaptable and effective therapy than using drugs.
· Skills acquisition leads to longer-term effectiveness
· The research conducted by Kobasa and Maddi largely concerns white middle-class businessmen and women. It may not be reasonable to generalise these findings to other sections of the population.
· Control and challenge may be successful coping strategies for this target group, but not for all adults. For some individuals, high control is stress inducing.
· It is possible that hardiness is no more than being in control, and commitment and challenge matter less.
· Funk argues that low hardiness is the same as being negative, and it is negativity rather than lack of hardiness that leads to the ill effects of stress.
Majority influence – Conformity
This is when a person or small group of people change their attitudes / behaviour to fit in with the behaviour / attitudes of a larger group of people.
Two Main Reasons that People Conform:
· The desire to be right – Informational Influence (Usually in ambiguous situations)
· The desire to be liked – Normative Influence (Usually in unambiguous situations)
Asch’s Study of Conformity
To see if people would conform in an unambiguous situation when put under pressure to do so.
· A naive participant is sat in a room with 6 confederates.
· They are all told that they will be taking part in an experiment on perception and are ask to choose which line out of a possible three matches / is the same length as a line on another card.
· The right answer is always obvious
· On critical trials all confederates gave the same wrong answer.
· The participant is usually last or second to last to answer.
· The test is to see if participants conform to an obviously wrong answer.
· 37% of incorrect responses were recorded across trials
· 5% of participants conformed all of the time
· 75% conformed at least once.
· People do feel pressure to conform even when an answer is obviously wrong.
· HOWEVER Asch’s study shows there were individual differences as 25% of the participants were able to resist the pressure to conform.
· It took place in the 1950’s so may not still be reliable, as in the 1950’s ‘doing your own thing’ was seen as socially unacceptable
· Asch had a bias sample as all his participants were male American students, therefore the external validity would be questionable as the results cannot be generalised worldwide and neither to women.
· It is a very trivial situation; no one’s beliefs or principles were tested.
Other studies support Asch’s results
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