Ch. 3: Stress & Its Effects
Stress can be viewed as Stimulus (divorce), or Response (physiological arousal).
New concencus: it is a combination of the two.
Stress : any circumstance perceived to threaten one’s well-being.
Stress levels are high & rising; 1/3 americans report extreme stress, ½ say it
increased over past 5 years.
Stressful events may have cumulative effect (minor stressors may end up having big
Individual perception is important in determining experienced stress.
Richard Lazarus & Susan Flokman : Primary & Secondary appraisals.
Primary Appraisal : initial evaluation of whether an event is irrelevent,
relevent but not threatening, or stressful. (is it stressful?)
Secondary Appraisal (if stress is perceived): Evaluation of coping
resources & options. (Can I cope?)
Ambient Stress : Chronic environmental conditions that are negatively valued,
require adaptive demands. ie, traffic, polution
Stress is influenced by culture
Acculturation : Adaptation to a new culture. Stressful for immigrants. Related to
expected vs. experienced stress.
Major Sources of Stress
Acute stressors : Short duration & Specific point. (SARS scare didn’t last long..)
Chronic Stressors : relatively long duration, no apparent time limit
Anticipatory Stressors : Future events that are perceived to be threatening.
Unique to humans. 4 major sources of stress:
1) Frustration : when the pursuit of some goal is thwarted. Wile E. Coyote.
2) Internal Conflict: Two or more incompatible motivations compete for
expression. 3 typesLewin & Miller ):
Approach-approach: Choice must be made b/w 2 attractive goals.
Avoidance-avoidance: Choice must be made b/w 2 unattractive goals
Approach-Avoidance: Choice of whether or not to pursue a single goal that
has both, pros and cons.
3) Change : Alterations in living circumstances that require readjustment.
Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS)- used to measure
change-related stress.argued that it measures frustration more than
4) Pressure : expectations/demands to behave a certain way. Often self-imposed.
More strongly related to mental health than change.
Responding to Stress
Emotional Response: mainly uncontrollable feelings with physiological
consequences. Stress ilicits negative emotions: anger, anxiety, sadness. Positive
emotions are also common during stress (gratitude, compassion). Inverted U
hypothesis: emotional arousal helps performance to a point, but too much is
detrimental. Optimal level depends on the task; simpler tasks require more arousal
(or you’ll get bored), complex tasks require less arousal (or you’ll get distracted).
Physiological Response: Fight-or-Flight, triggered by autonomic nervous system.
General Adaptation Syndrome: 3 stages:
Alarm (fight-or-flightResistance (more adapted to stressor),Exahaustion
Brain-body pathways: Endocrine system- Hypothalamus stimulates adrenal
glands to release catecholamines or corticosteroids.
Behavioural Response: Coping : Active effort to master, reduce, or tolerate the
demands of a stressor. The Potential Effects of Stress:
Impaired task performance: performance pressure increases self-
consciousness, distracting from the task at hand, or over-focusing. Effect may
be less severe in pro athletes; they’re more adapted to pressure. *Chronic
stress over-reliance on habits (saves energy, but reduces adaptability)
Disruption of Cognitive Function: increased tendency to jump to
conclusions, narrow thinking. Reduced attention may be defense mechanism
in consolidating traumatic memories. Mild short-term stressors may enhance
Burnout: Physical & emotional exhaustion, cynicism, reduced self-efficacy
from work-related stress (overload, lack of support/contro/reward).
Consequences: reduced health & performance.
Psychological Problems & Disorders: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD)- lasting psychological disturbances caused by a traumatic event.
Twice as common in females. Intensity of one’s reaction during the event is a
predictor of PTSD (specifically dissociative reactions/experiences)
Physical Illness: Psychosomatic diseases- physical ailments caused by
Positive Effects: Positive Psychology- study focused on the positive shit,
rather than psychological problems. ie, “Post-traumatic growth”. Stress can
promote positive psychological change, it can satisy the need for
stimulation/challenge, and it can vaccinate against future stress.
Factors influencing Stress Tolerance
Moderator variables : can soften the impact of stress on an individual
Social Support (both giving and receiving)
Hardiness: a disposition marked by commitment, challenge, & control.
Associated with stress resistance.
Optimism: General tendency to expect good outcomes.
Optimistic explanatory style: people tend to blame temporary,
Pessimistic explanatory style: People tend to blame their own
incompetence. Reducing Stress through Self-Control
Behaviour modification: Systematic way to change behaviour through
conditioning; what was learned can be unlearned (reconditioned). 5 steps:
1. Specify Target Behaviour: Use examples of behaviours, rather than listing
2. Gather Baseline Data: Frequency/extent of the behaviour (how often you bite
your nails, hours spent studying, etc..), Identify Antecedents (behaviours that
precede your target behaviour, they may trigger the unwanted behaviour),
monitor the Consequences of your behaviour.
3. Design your program:
Increasing response strength- Select a reinforcer to reward the
behaviour/avoid consequence. Arrange contingencies (promise a reward,
contingent on completing some behaviour); if reinforcement is too
easy/generous, you may become satiated, reward loses its value. A Token
Economy can solve this issue; grant tokens for behaviour, exchange them
later for reinforcers. Shaping is useful for approximating behaviours closer
and closer to the target (to overcome public speaking fear, start talking to
small groups, work your way up to large presentations).
Decreasing Response Strengh: Reward reduced behaviour, control
antecedants, or apply punishment.
4. Executing & Evaluating your program: Behavioural Contract- a written
agreement (like an FB status proclaiming the legalities of your account)
promising to adhere to the contingencies of the behaviour modification
program. Watch for weak reinforcers, delays b/w behaviout & reward,
5. Ending your program: Reach your damn goal and stop.. restart.. whatever. Ch. 4: Coping
Coping : efforts to master, reduce or tolerate the demands created by stress.
It’s most adaptive to use a variety of coping strategies (more flexibility).
Coping strategies vary in their adaptive value; not all strategies are equal.
Common Coping Patterns of Limited Value:
Giving up :Learned Helplessness - passive behaviour produced by exposure to
unavoidable aversive events. Its development depends on the person’s cognitive
interpretation of the event. *Withdrawing effort from an unattainable goal can be
an effective coping strategy.
Acting Aggressively : any behaviour intended to hurt somebody.
Frustration Aggression Hypothesis : aggression is always due to
frustration. Not proven, but there’s some relationship. Lashing out at innocent
people= displacement , according to Freud. Aggression as a form of emotional
release= Catharsis (Freud). Modern view is that blowing off steam has the opposite
effect, fueling aggression. Catharses are NOT common in continuing relationships;
they illicit backlash.. doesn’t work.
Indulging Yourself: stress can reduce impulse control self-indulgence. To
compensate for stress, we often develop alternative rewardseating, smoking,
drugs, etc. Internet Addiction: uncontrollable amount of time spent of facebook,
tetris, and other productive shit. Debate over calling it an addiction.
Blaming Yourself: negative se