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Lecture 4

PSYCH253 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Social Proof, James W. Pennebaker, Deindividuation

Course Code
Steve Spencer

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Section 4: Test 4
Module 13: Social Psychology and Health
Health and Control
Executive Rats
- Started with animal studies on rats
- Two rats connected to a wire that gives an electrical shock
- One of the rats can turn off the shock (Executive rat), other rat can’t
oEven though they get same stimuli, they react different
- Rats in control were less likely to get diseases. Why is that happening?
oExecutive rat buffers negative stimuli
- Did a similar study with people and loud noise
oPerson who has control is a lot less upset, not as bothered than person who
doesn’t have control over noise
oEven perceived control makes them feel better
Told people there’s a switch that can turn off when you want, but
actually doesn’t do anything
They are less bothered knowing they have this control
Learned Helplessness and Depression
- Learned helplessness study done on dogs
- Put them in cages where the can’t move/can’t get out, sit on floor and get zapped
by electric shock
- After a while, the dogs just endure the shock, even when the cage is taken away
- Original model
oPeople who are depressed give up even when they can do something about
bad things that happen to them
oDog study resembles people who are depressed=learned helplessness
oThe way people explain events has a big impact on how they experience
oPeople in learned helplessness make internal, stable, and global
I failed exam because it is me
I failed exam that tells me I’m a failure (always)
I failed the exam that tells me I’m a failure and I’m worthless,
nobody will love me (Terrible in all dimensions)
o This is the reformulated model of depression
Control and Health Outcomes
- Control and Optimism blends (related to one another)
- Rodin and Langer – Control in the Nursing Home

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oWent into a nursing home and set up control &experimental group
oControl group: regular nursing home (no control given: eat meals at
certain time, no possessions, given furniture and bed, programs you have
to go to)
oExperimental/Treatment Group : alternative style nursing home that gives
them back control, allowed possessions, wear whatever clothes, given
plant to take care of (you are in control of your life even though in nursing
oMeasured how happy they are : Treatment 4.5/7 for happiness, control
3.5/7 for happiness
Those in control were happier
oThen they wanted to see how long this lasts for
Most of the control group had died (lived 15 months)
Treatment group lived longer (30 months)
oFinding: Being in charge of your life has a dramatic effect on health
Optimism and Health
- Sense of control (optimism that you can control your life) promotes:
oMental health
oPhysical health
Importance of Value Systems and Meaning
- Being able to understand and make sense of (control) helps people
- Parents who lost child due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Study: McIntosh,
Sylver, and Wortman (1992)
oWhat were the psychological consequences?
A third of them never recovered (trouble working, depressed)
Another third of them recovered after about a year
Final third recovered within a month
oWhen and how they made meaning of the event
oParents who had strong religious beliefs helped (meaning and understand
of event to help move on and cope)
- Lack of control, blame is bad for health BUT on top of control, if you can make
sense of something and find meaning in something that appears to be meaningless
it can give you a sense of control
Health and Stress
- Selyes General Adaptation Syndrome
oInitially when something bad happens  alarm response
oLater  have defences to deal with it
- Overusing alarm responses drains the body
- Stress is acute reaction (short term) that can be beneficial but if we try to use
acute reaction, it doesn’t work and will break down (stress illness)
- What makes something stressful?
oHow the perceiver shapes reality

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oHow we appraise a situation is critical
oDeath of a child is stressful but a lot of things that are in between
- Major crises – Is change bad?
oWhen there is a lot of change (major crises)  stress
oSocial Readjustment Scale (stress scale)
100 is spouse died, 40 is new job
oLooked at these events and see if it predicts stress?
oFindings: No, negative change is the one that is bad
Being fired was ranked only slightly worse than getting a new job
Appraisal: how we praise the event and how it is viewed
Primary appraisal: is a threat or a challenge?
Threat: Is it something we can deal with (new job)
Do you think getting fired is a threat or a challenge?
oDaily hassles
More stressful than major crises
Much worse to have roommate who nags you all the time than to
have somebody you love die…
Daily accumulative little things happening has much bigger impact
on stress than major crises
Study: Dorms and illness
Does living in a suite or double room make a difference?
Students who are less cramped (suite style) visit doctor less
Study: Interpersonal conflicts
If they have a relationship how much they fight?
Predictor of stress
Daily interpersonal conflict matter more than anything else
in predicting stress. Why?
If these go on and on, how do you see this is a challenge?
They think this sucks, it’s horrible and is a threat
These daily hassles gets interpreted as a threat and not a
challenge = more stressful (how it is perceived)
Models of Depression
Two Models of Depression
1. Pennebaker’s Theory of Inhibition and Confrontation
oWhen you have difficulties in life and try to inhibit (avoid it) can create
stress  inhibition inhibits finding meaning in the event  confrontation
reverses this pattern
a) Inhibition in itself can create stress: When you try not to think about
something, you can’t, it comes back again and again
E.g. in a car accident (traumatic experience) someone die and try
not to think about it, then it adds and creates stress
Problems arise when we don’t’ deal with them, it comes back
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