lecture 10 pt 2
Models of Personality and Health (*Book uses slightly different terminology)
Number of different models that consider personality traits as either causes outcomes or as
moderators or mediators of health processes.
(1) Constitutional risk factor (etiological)
– Focuses on biological/genetic substrates
Focus on some sort of underlying vulnerability that someone has that tends to lead to
(2) Illness behaviour model
– Focuses on differences in health behaviours
Looks at the relationship between personality and the extent to which people engage in
health related behaviors (either positive or negative).
So there would be physiological sensations everyone would have, and for some people it
would be a heightened perception of these sensations and these could be in part due to
personality. When we perceive these sensations we may label them as indicative of
illness and worth being concerned about. And this can lead to us engaging in health-
relevant behaviors like self-medicating or going to the doctors. Personality factors can
influence both of these. Or they may be more likely to report symptoms. So this model is
one where personality influences the types of behaviors we engage in, seeking out
medical treatment for example, or taking day off from work or w/e it may be. Illness
behaviors may be related to actual illnesses but its not 1 to 1. There are a number of
people who engage in illness-related behavior in the absence of any reason to do so.
SOOO… the way a person perceives and labels sensations in this case drives the
relationship between personality and illness, this is very much a cognitive model of the
relationship between personality and illness because it has to do with labeling the
(3) Stress moderation/mediation models
– Focuses on relationship of personality and stress
What we are looking for is the way in which personality can either be a mediating
mechanism or a moderating factor in driving illness.
MODERATING There are stressors and coping responses to these stressors and these
coping mechanisms influence the amount of physiological arousal we experience, and
this leads to illness or not. And where personality has a role is, it is a moderator of coping
responses. Personality can influence coping styles that people choose (remember
neurotics and extroverts). So personality can influence whether we experience somatic
illness. MEDIATING there again stressors, and there’s appraisals and personality can
influence coping responses and appraisals. So there’s appraisal and there is also a
person’s own influence on events.
SOOOO… Stress moderation/mediation models… looking for personality as something
that changes the relationship between stress and illness kinda makes it stronger or weaker
or as part of the process/mechanism underlying the relationship between stress and
(4) Stress generation model
– Focuses on person’s own role in life stress
In this case, what we see is that the person themselves by virtue of their personality traits
tend to produce stress for themselves. So these other models ….
1 model is very much a passive model, idea is that if you have some vulnerability and the right
set of circumstances you will have some problem, very passive model.
The stress generation model, takes into account the fact that the person may also
influence the events themselves.
Eberhart & Hammen (2009)
Hammen developed a model that looked at stress and its relation to depression. Interested in how
depressed individuals might end up creating some of the problems that end up exacerbating their
In this study they looked at 3 predictor variables, (these are all people that qualified as
depressive), they looked not only at attachment style but also dependency (exploitative
dependency: the idea that these people feel comfortable being used, fine with having their
partner depend on them. And dependency in the sense of getting emotional reassurance) and
that’s tied to this 3 concept of reassurance-seeking.
• Examined Hammen’s model of stress generation among depressed college students in
• Interpersonal style operational definitions: attachment; dependency; seek reassurance
• Anxious attachment and reassurance seeking predicted conflict stress over a 4-week
People that have an anxious attachment style (very upset with the mom when she leaves the
room and very upset with mom when she returns) and degree of reassurance seeking both predict
relationship problems that happen over the next month. A lot of these health decisions that we make may be influenced very subtly by personality
factors, we have all these campaign adds to tell people to eat healthy and drive safe, but there’s
often less consideration of the target than the message.
Unrealistic optimism we are drawn to things even though we should be avoiding them
Unrealistic pessimism we avoid things
Look at extroversion.. promotes unhealthy and healthy behaviors.
Neuroticism, Affect, and Health
People who are neurotic tend to have more negative affect, they tend to be in bad moods more
often. Both predict 2 things …more somatic complaints (I feel bad, I hava pin in my w/e) and
more physician visits.
• Neuroticism and negative affect linked to more somatic complaints, physician visits
1. Psychosomatic hypothesis: negative affect and neuroticism cause health problems
So stress itself is causing the health problem. Psychosomatic does not mean imaginary,
2. Disability hypothesis: illness leads to higher levels of negative affect (reverse
Here Health problem comes 1 personality expression comes second.
3. Perception hypothesis: