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Lecture 4

PSYCH253 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Diminishing Returns, Group Polarization, James W. Pennebaker

Course Code
Steve Spencer

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Section 4: Applying Social Psychology
Module 13 - Social Psychology and Health
Health and Control
Executive Rats
-studies about control started with animal studies on rats
-two rats connected to wire that gives an electric shock, one of the rats can turn off the shock
-even though the stimuli is the same, their reactions are different (because one rat has control)
-rats in control were less likely to get diseases
Learned Helplessness and Depression
learned helplessness study done on dogs
put them in cages where they couldn’t get out and the floor would administer electric shock
after awhile, the dogs just endure the shock, even when the cage is taken away
-original model: people who are depressed give up even when they can do something about
bad things that happen to them
-reformulated model of depression:
people in high in learned helplessness make internal attributions (e.g. failed exam and you
blame it on yourself), stable (e.g. I’m a failure and I will always be that way), and global
attributions (e.g. because I failed I’m worthless and no good at all)
the way people explain events has a big impact on how they experience them
Control and Health Outcomes
-blending issues of control and optimism because they are related to each other
Source: University of Waterloo PSYCH 253 Online Lecture (Steven Spencer)
Study: People and Loud Noises
-loud noise; one person had control over the switch vs. the other who didn’t
-person with control is much less upset by the noise
even perceived control makes them feel better (told the switch works intermittently but it’s
not actually even connected however people still have some feeling of control)
Study: Rodin and Langer - Control in Nursing Home
-control group: regular nursing home, no control given (given activities and can’t control food
they eat), no possessions
-experimental group: alternative style nursing home, given control (over activities that
happen and when they would happen), allowed possessions, given plant to take care of
-experimental group’s happiness was 4.3 / 7 and control was 3.7 / 7
-came back a year and a half later and examined them again and found that the average
mortality from the first check in for the control group was 15 months and the experimental
group on average was 30 (survived 2x as long after first check in, 15 months more of life))

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Section 4: Applying Social Psychology
-sense of control can have a dramatic effect on health
Optimism and Health
-sense of control over your life and sense of control of optimism promotes health
-optimism is related to both better physical and mental health
Importance of Value Systems and Meaning
-being able to understand and make sense of bad things that happen, helps people
-those who can understand and interpret a bad event can overcame the event more quickly
-making meaning of an event can give a sense of control
Health and Stress
-Sely’s General Adaptation Syndrome
suggested that when something bad happens to you, you initially have an alarm response
(go into shock right away) but later have defences to deal with it
overusing alarm responses drains the body (if you are constantly in the alarm stage)
-what makes something stressful? how the perceiver shapes reality makes a huge difference
how we view a situation is critical
primary appraisal: is the event a threat or a challenge (something we think we can handle)?
-daily hassles (threats, not challenges) are more stressful than major crises
study: dorms and illness:
-people who live in a dorm vs. a suite
-students who are less cramped (in suites) visit the doctor less
daily interpersonal conflicts are one of the best predictors of stress
Models of Depression
Two Models of Depression
1. Pennebaker’s Theory of Inhibition and Confrontation
-argues that when you have horrible things happen in your life one of the things that can
cause you the most trouble is if you try not to think about it (inhibition can create stress)
inhibition inhibits finding meaning in the event (understanding it)
-confrontation reverses this pattern (forcing yourself to think about it makes you feel better)
-harder to not think about the issue if you are purposely trying not to think about it
-people who write about their traumatic event are less likely to get depressed, or experience
illness than those who don’t
Source: University of Waterloo PSYCH 253 Online Lecture (Steven Spencer)

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

Section 4: Applying Social Psychology
2. Nolen-Hoesma’s Self-Focus Model of Depression
-argues that one of the problems with depression is people focus too much on themselves and
what they’re like
-negative mood leads to self-focus and self-focus increases negative mood (vicious cycle)
-suggests that distraction from the negative thoughts about yourself may be helpful
-both models suggest ways of controlling thoughts
-both models suggest looking outward rather than inward
Alcohol and Myopia
-people get away from their problems by drinking
-drinking helps with stress some of the time but there are different effects of alcohol
-alcohol restricts attention
-alcohol myopia exacerbates the power of the situation (makes it more powerful)
lets the situation take over
Alcohol Myopia and Aggression
Alcohol Myopia and Helping
-alcohol myopia can also cause helping (caused by exacerbation of the power of the situation)
Source: University of Waterloo PSYCH 253 Online Lecture (Steven Spencer)
Angry Drunk Study
-subject blasted with noise and can shock a person to stop the noise
-smart strategy would be to not shock them and be nice to them so they don’t want to blast
you with noise again after (shock with minimum amount)
strategy takes a lot of thought and construction of the situation
-partner was a machine that reciprocated an equal amount of noise to the shock level
-in the end, people who are drunk get their ‘ears blown off’ but sober people figure it out
-subjects read passage and have to cross out all e’s and o’s (very boring)
-strong situational pressure: experimenter asks for more help on another booklet
when people are drunk they are much more likely to help out
-weak situational pressure: note attached asking for help
drunk people aren’t more likely to help
people who are drinking are more likely to help when it’s a face-to-face request
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