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Lecture #4- “Nature x Nurture” Interactions.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Ashley Waggoner Denton

Lecture #4: “Nature x Nurture” Interactions Nature and nurture are inextricably intertwined. They work together, as shown through Caspi’s study. This study showed that children in an abusive environment were more likely to grow up to be criminals.  Epigenetics: changes in gene expression that are due to non-genetic influences. It modifies the gene expression without harming the DNA. All cells contain the same DNA, but this is what changes the type of cell due to the environment.  Heredity: the genetic transmission of characteristics from parents to offspring. Passing on DNA from generation to generation.  Heritability: an estimate of the genetic portion of the variation in some specific trait. This is only possible to look at within a population. If everyone has the same trait, there is no variation. Related individuals show less variation, and therefore less heritability. Many studies have been done looking at monozygotic twins that were raised together versus raised apart (put up for adoption). These twins have shared genes, but are raised in different environments if they are separated  the findings of the studies could show the effect the environment has on individuals. It was found that the twins raised separately were remarkably similar. Although, there is bias because most families who adopt come from a high socioeconomic status (makes the environments similar). Often, twins who are raised together get treated differently on purpose so they are treated like individuals (different environments). Health Psychology: It focuses on the events that affect physical well-being, and applies to psychological principles to understand health and well-being.  The Biopsychosocial Model: combines biological, psychological and social factors when looking at patients.  Placebo Effect: shows that thought can influence physical health. A drug or treatment, unrelated to the particular problem of the person who receives it, may make the person feel better because the person believes the dug or treatment will. The key to the sugar pill working is that the patient must believe it will have an effect. o Brought up theories that “it’s all in your head”  However, the pill reduces anxiety which will cure some of the symptoms o Experiment: patients experiencing osteoarthritis in their knees were sent into surgery. Some patients actually received the surgery, some did not, but all received a scar. Those who received the placebo claimed to feel better. Stress & Coping: Stress is a pattern of behavioural, psychological and physiological responses to events that exceeds an organism’s ability to respond. Eustress is described as stress from positive events and distress is stress from negative events. The stressor is the stimulus causing the stress. The coping response is any response the organism elicits to avoid, escape or minimize the stressor.  Physiology: Stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This assesses and responds appropriately, usually only major stressors are responded to. It disrupts working memory and enhances heart functions by increasing blood pressure. This is why long period stress is damaging to the body. Even when the stress is gone, the hormones remain in the body. o General Adaptation Syndrome: This was found when studying rats  all responses to stress were the same regardless of stressor. It is assumed everyone has this non- specific response. The three stages are:  Alarm Stage  see danger  Resistance Stage  defenses maximized  Exhaustion Stage worn out defenses o Hallmarks of this response are:  Bloated adrenal glands  Damaged lymphatic structures  Stomach ulcers  Sex Differences: Often, it is rats that are looked at, but when looking at humans, only men are usually used. This is because women complicate the system with the cycle. Shelly and colleagues found an alternative to the fight or flight response called the tend and befriend response. Often found in females, it is the tendency to respond to stress by caring for others and forming alliances with social groups. This could be due to the hormone oxytocin that women have and is responsibly for forming attachments. Both sexes have both responses, but each sex uses one response more.  Health Effects: Colds are common due to the weakened immune system. Heart disease is common due to the elevated blood pressure. o A Californian study showed that men with a Type A personality often gets angry and hostile more which leads to stress. They look for outputs such as alcohol, drugs and overeating.  There are two ways of coping with stress: o Emotion-Focused Coping:  Passive  Uses avoidance, minimizing the problem and emotional eating  Used when situation is seen as uncontrollable and stress levels are high o Problem-Focused Coping:  Active  Looks for solutions and chooses from among them  Used when situation is seen as controllable and stress levels are moderate  This is more beneficial o Both methods use primary appraisal (seeing stimulus and determining if it is a stressor) and secondary appraisal (coping strategies) o Which method of coping used is based on one’s hardiness  Ability to deal with high levels of stress  These people are committed to daily activities, view threats as challenges and see themselves as being in control  Ability to return to a normal state of functioning after stressor is gone  Social Support: o Four basic types:  Tangible Support:  Providing help and taking on some of the burden  Make problems their own  Informational Support:  Offering advice  Esteem Support:  Building the person’s confidence by telling them you believe in them  Emotional Support:  Physical comfort, listening and empathisizing  Receiving emotional support doesn’t help with stressor tangibly, but it provides a buffer for the individual to cope better o James Pennebaker says that obtaining emotional disclosure through talking or writing helps overcome the event because it helps the person to really understand how he/she feels  Exercise: o Reduces stress and depression in as little as 10 minutes o Cognitive benefits o Faster healing time, better heart and lung health Psychological Disorders: How does one distinguish normal behaviour from abnormal behaviour?:  Seem pathological?  Maladaptive?  Must interfere with at least one aspect of life Theories of mental illness have evolved from: supernatural  biological  biopsychosocial model.  Diathesis –Stress Model: proposes that disorder may develop when underlying vulnerability is coupled with a precipitating event. It combines biological factors with environmental factors. When minimal stress occurs, there is a lower probability of developing a disorder. When excessive stress occurs, there is a high probability of developing a disorder. Other approaches used are:  Family Systems Model: sees what the family is like  Socio Culture Model: interaction between the individual and culture o e.g. anorexia nervosa  Cognitive Behavioural Model: maladaptive thought and beliefs the individual has learned  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV): places all disorders on a multiaxial system, which makes treatment and diagnosis easier. This has been updated to DSM-5 and the multiaxial system no longer exists (axis I-III are grouped). Multiaxial system: o Axis I: Clinical Disorders  Schizophrenia, childhood disorders, depression o Axis II: Personality Disorders and Mental Retardation (Intellectual Disorder)  Antisocial personality disorder  Persist throughout lifetime (hard to treat) o Axis III: General Medical Conditions  Alzheimer’s, obesity  Can contribute to psychological disorders but are medical conditions themselves
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