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Lecture: Stress and Coping

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Western University
Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

Stress and Coping The Role of Perceived Control Prologue: What Is Perceived Control? 1. Control deprivation in animals 2. Learned helplessness in people 3. Reactions to illness 4. Controlling our thoughts Prologue: What Is Perceived Control? - an expected response-outcome contingency o if you do X, you will achieve outcome Y o e.g. control over your grades; if you study and do the readings, you’ll get a good grade o perceived control over light- you can control it but switching switches; but if that does NOT change the light your perception of control will be low Q: Is Perceived Control Important in our everyday lives? Part 1: Control Deprivation in Animals 1964, confronted with a dog in a shuttle box (seporated into 2 sections) - dog in one section A light come on 10 seconds a shock happens If he jumps the hurdle it will escape the shock Most dogs learn the contingency quickly of jumping the hurdle to escape the shock As soon as the light comes on the dug jumps to avoid the shock Dog#2 - the dog doesn’t jump, but accepts the shock - he sometimes jumps but usually passively accepts the shock - why the difference? o Both dogs had periovusly been placed in a harness and while they were in a harness a light would come on, followed by a shock o The first dog had learned that I t could control the shocks by making a head movement right/left if he did the shock wouldn’t occur  So when he waas placed in a shuttle box he had no problem learning a new contingency - dog #2 had no control over the shock when in the harness - he learned that there was nothing he could do to avoid the shock - no contingency b/n his response and the outcome - when subsequently confronted with shocks in the shuttle box (could be avoided) it failed to learn the new contingency that it COULD control it thus, prior exposure to shocks in the harness prior exposure to uncontrollable shocks (in the harness) learned helplessness (learned that he had no control over the outcomes) Additional findings: - LH occurs in a wide variety of animals - Generalizes to new situations - Helplessness generalizes to new situations (harnessshuttle box) - An animal that leanredhelplessness in one situation, will show helplessness in a total differene situation - E.g. if a dog learns it can’t control shocks, it later has difficulty learning that it can control whether it gets food; - Or if it learns that it can/t control if it gets food, it then larns whether it will do in another situation - Animals can be “immunized” against LH by providing prior experiences with control (e.g. if control in harness, dog has difficulty learning it can’t control shocks in shuttle box) - A “helpless” animal can be given “control therapy” to show that it has control eliminates helplessness - Does LH also occur in humans? Part 2: Learned Helplessness in People STUDY: part 1, participants are given prior experience with uncontrollable/ controllable events (e.g. loud noise that’s either controllable/uncontrollable, cognitive problems that are simple/impossible to solve). Part 2 of the study, we observe their performance on a second controllable task. So will participants that had prior experience with Uncontrollable events has difficulty with this new task? Will they show sings of LH? Typical results: are weak and inconsistent. E.g. some studies show that control deprivation sometimes inhibits subsequent performance (LH), but other show that prior experiecen with uncontrollable events sometimes facilitate subsequent nd perfroamnce; leads some people to try harder on a 2 task. LH doe NOT generalize to new tasks; very specific to the task that they just performed. - closer look at LH in humans o originally assumed that exposure to Uncontrollable events, and it will lead to LH (in non-humans) o researchers began to suspect that there was something missing o b/n the experience of an event and LH, people are trying to understand why they couldn’t control the uncontrollable event  they are generating attributions (causal explantations)- for the uncontrollable event  and it is those attributions that will determine wheter/not the individual will experience LH - The Attributional Reformulation of LH o Argues whether/not we experience LH determined by TYPE of attribution o 2 students enrolled in the same course. They failed their first exam (even thoug they studied- no contingency b/n their behaviour and the outcome). So we asked them why did you fail the math test? o One student says “I’m stupid” implies 3 causal dimensions: 1. internal (reflect dispositions) 2. stable (will persist over time) 3. global (likely to generalize to other areas of the person’s life)  b/c the cause is stable and global, therefore there is NO expectation of future control causes LH  likely to say that there is nothing they could do to alter their outcomes, so they might as well not even try  give up b4 discovering they might be able to do it  also, since the cause is internal, they are likely to experience low self-esteem  Called the pessimistic/depressive attributional style o student 2: says “b/c the room was too hot”  also implies 3 causal dimensions: 1. external (stems from the environment) 2. unstable (won’t persist over time) 3. specific (won’t generazlie to other areas of the person’s life)  b/c the cause is unstable and specific, they are not likely to experience LH, so they should excect control over future outcomes  and since the cause is external, there is no loss in self- esteem  Called the optimistic explanatory style Part 3: Perceived Control and Reactions to Physical Illness - over 30 yrs of research suggests that perceived control facilitates coping A. correlational studies:  Primary Control: perceptions of control over the illness, something that the person can do to eliminate the illness  coronary heart disease, breast cancer, and spinal cord injuries all find that higer levels of perceived control over the illness are associated with better adjustments; low stress, and depression, and anxiety o e.g. Michael J Fox - even people that don\t have primary control can cope very well - they have “secondary control”  control over the consequences of the illness e.g. emotional reactions, physical symptoms, treatment process - experimental studies manipulate perceptions of control o most influential have been perceived control in the elderly o STUDY: langr and Rodin’s “nursing home” study: many people who end up in nursing homes feel that they have lost sontrol over their lives (sometimes put in there against their wishes). Once they’re there, they have little control over their everyday lives (little control over what they e
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