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Chapter 3

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Psychology 2035A/B
Doug Hazlewood

37 CHAPTER 3 STRESS AND ITS EFFECTS LEARNING OBJECTIVES The Nature of Stress (APA Goals 1, 8) • Describe the nature of stress and discuss how common it is. • Distinguish between primary and secondary appraisal of stress. • Summarize the evidence on ambient stress. • Explain how culture and ethnicity are related to stress. Major Sources of Stress (APA Goal 1) • Distinguish between acute, chronic, and anticipatory stressors. • Describe frustration as a form of stress. • Outline the three types of conflict, and discuss typical reactions to conflicts. • Summarize evidence on life change as a form of stress. • Discuss evidence on pressure as a form of stress. Responding to Stress (APA Goal 1) • List three categories of negative emotions commonly elicited by stress. • Discuss the role of positive emotions in the stress process. • Explain the effects of emotional arousal on coping efforts, and describe the inverted-U hypothesis. • Describe the fight-or-flight response and contrast this to the tend-and-befriend response. • Describe the three stages of the general adaptation syndrome. • Distinguish between the two major pathways along which the brain sends signals to the endocrine system in response to stress. • Clarify the concept of coping. The Potential Effects of Stress (APA Goals 1, 4) • Explain the phenomenon of choking under pressure. • Summarize evidence on how stress can affect cognitive functioning. • Describe the symptoms and causes of burnout. • Assess the potential impact of stress on psychological health. • Discuss the prevalence, symptoms, and causes of posttraumatic stress disorder. • Discuss the effects of stress on physical health. • Articulate three ways in which stress might lead to beneficial effects. Factors Influencing Stress Tolerance (APA Goal 1, 4) • Explain how social support moderates the impact of stress. • Describe the hardiness syndrome and how it influences stress tolerance. • Clarify how optimism is related to stress tolerance. • Describe the potential problem of unrealistic optimism. APPLICATION: Monitoring Your Stress (APA Goals 3, 4, 9) • Explain why traits cannot be target behaviors in self-modification programs. • Identify the three kinds of information you should pursue in gathering your baseline data. • Discuss how to use reinforcement to increase the strength of a response. 38 CHAPTER 3 • Explain how to use reinforcement, control of antecedents, and punishment to decrease the strength of a response. • Analyze issues related to fine-tuning and ending a self-modification program. CHAPTER OUTLINE I. The Nature of Stress A. Stress is an everyday event 1. Stress: any circumstances that threaten or are perceived to threaten one's well-being and thereby tax one's coping abilities 2. Routine hassles may have significant negative effects on a person’s mental and physical health a. Stressful events can have a cumulative or additive impact b. Personal characteristics such as resilience and optimism can buffer the distressing effects of daily hassles c. Hassles that evoke strong negative emotions are the ones most related to stress B. Stress lies in the eye of the beholder 1. Appraisal of stress is subjective a. Primary appraisal: an initial evaluation of whether an event is (1) irrelevant to you, (2) relevant, but not threatening, or (3) stressful b. When event is viewed as stressful, you're likely to make a secondary appraisal, which is an evaluation of your coping resources and options for dealing with the stress 2. People who are anxious, unhappy, etc. are more likely to report stress C. Stress may be embedded in the environment 1. Ambient stress consists of chronic environmental conditions that, although not urgent, are negatively valued and place adaptive demands on people 2. There are a variety of types of environmental stress a. Excessive noise, heat, pollution b. Crowding c. Living with risk of disaster d. Urban poverty and violence D. Stress is influenced by culture 1. Worldwide cultures vary greatly in the predominant forms of stress a. Cultural change, such as increased modernization and the growth of cities is causing stress in cultures all over the world b. A specific cultural group may be exposed to pervasive stress that is unique to that group 2. Within the modern, Western world, there are disparities in the stressors experienced by specific cultural groups a. Institutional or overt racism has declined in recent decades b. Subtle or covert expressions of ethnic prejudice continue to be common 39 c. Everyday discrimination may include verbal insults, negative evaluations, avoidance, denial of equal treatment, threats of aggression, negative racial stereotypes d. Acculturation, or changing to adapt to a new culture, is a major source of stress related to reduced well-being II. Major Sources of Stress A. Differentiating between acute and chronic stressors 1. Acute stressors are threatening events that have a relatively short duration 2. Chronic stressors are threatening events that have a relatively long duration and no readily apparent time limit 3. Anticipatory stressors are upcoming or future events that are perceived to be threatening B. Frustration occurs in any situation in which the pursuit of some goal is thwarted 1. Failures and losses are two common kinds of frustration that can be very stressful 2. Frustration often occurs as a result of environmental stress (e.g., excessive noise, heat) C. Internal conflict occurs when two or more incompatible motivations or behavioral impulses compete for expression 1. Conflict is an unavoidable aspect of everyday life 2. Three types of conflict a. Approach-approach conflict occurs when a choice must be made between two attractive goals b. Avoidance-avoidance conflict occurs when a choice must be made between two unattractive goals c. Approach-avoidance conflict occurs when a choice must be made about whether to pursue a single goal that has both attractive and unattractive aspects D. Life changes are any noticeable alterations in one's living circumstances that require readjustment 1. Holmes and Rahe found that any changes, positive or negative, can be stressful a. They developed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) to measure life change as a form of stress b. The SRRS and similar scales have been used in numerous studies 1) Results generally show that people with high scores tend to be more vulnerable to illness and psychological problems 2) Findings have led to the assumption that life change is inherently stressful c. Criticism of studies using SRRS 1) Possible problems with methods used, interpretation of findings 2) Critics have argued that SRRS does not measure change exclusively 3) Critics have suggested that undesired negative life changes are the ones resulting in stress 2. More research is needed to determine the degree to which change alone is a cause of stress E. Pressure involves expectations or demands that one behave in a certain way 40 CHAPTER 3 1. Two basic types of pressure a. Pressure to perform by executing tasks quickly, efficiently, and successfully b. Pressure to conform to expectations 2. Concept of pressure has received little attention from researchers 3. A scale has been developed to measure pressure as a form of life stress 4. Pressure is often self-imposed III. Responding to Stress A. Emotional responses 1. Emotions are powerful, largely uncontrollable feelings, accompanied by physiological changes 2. Negative emotions a. Annoyance, anger, and rage are particularly likely to be caused by frustration b. Apprehension, anxiety, and fear are probably evoked more often than other emotions c. Dejection, sadness, and grief may result from stress, particularly frustration d. Others such as guilt, shame, envy, jealousy, and disgust 3. Positive emotions a. People experience a diverse array of pleasant emotions even while enduring dire circumstances, such as gratitude and renewed love for friends and family b. Positive emotions contribute to building social, intellectual, and physical resources that can be helpful in dealing with stress 4. Effects of emotional arousal a. Can result in diminished performance (e.g., test anxiety) b. The inverted-U hypothesis 1) Performance improves with increased arousal up to a point, at which greater arousal results in deterioration in performance 2) Level of arousal at which performance peaks is called the optimal level of arousal 3) As tasks become more complex, the optimal level of arousal tends to decrease 4) Research support is inconsistent, subject to varied interpretations B. Physiological responses 1. The fight-or-flight response: a physiological reaction to threat that mobilizes an organism for attacking (fight) or fleeing (flight) an enemy a. First described by Walter Cannon in 1932 b. Occurs in autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is made up of the nerves that connect to the heart, blood vessels, smooth muscles, and glands 1) Parasympathetic division of ANS helps body conserve resources 2) Sympathetic division of ANS mediates the fight-or-flight response c. A "tend and befriend" response to stress may also occur, and may be more common among females than males d. Most modern stressors cannot be handled simply through fight or flight, making the response less than fully adaptive for modern human life 2. The general adaptation syndrome: a model of the body's stress response, consisting of three stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion a. Formulated by Hans Selye based on research beginning in 1930s b. Three stages of syndrome 41 1) Alarm occurs when organism recognizes existence of threat 2) Resistance occurs when, in cases of prolonged stress, physiological changes stabilize as coping efforts get under way 3) Exhaustion occurs when body's resources are depleted as a result of dealing with chronic stress, physiological arousal decreases c. Selye's research demonstrated link between stress and physical illness 3. Brain-body pathways a. Endocrine system consists of glands that secrete chemicals called hormones into the bloodstream b. Brain sends signals to endocrine system along two major pathways, both activated by hypothalamus 1) First pathway is routed through ANS and involves activation of adrenal glands to release catecholamines into bloodstream 2) Second pathway is from brain directly to endocrine system and involves the pituitary gland, which stimulates adrenal glands to release corticosteroids c. Mounting evidence indicates that stress can suppress functioning of immune system 1) Reducing cellular immune responses, which attack intracellular pathogens such as viruses 2) Reducing humoral immune responses, which attach extracellular pathogens C. Behavioral responses 1. Most behavioral responses to stress involve coping: active efforts to master, reduce, or tolerate the demands created by stress 2. Coping responses can be either healthy or unhealthy IV. The Potential Effects of Stress A. Impaired task performance 1. Studies indicate that pressure can impair performance by disrupting attention a. Elevated self-consciousness creates distractions b. Self-conscious person may focus too much attention on task 2. Laboratory research suggests that choking under pressure is fairly common B. Disruption of cognitive functioning 1. Studies indicate that stress can disrupt aspects of attention a. Increase tendency to jump to a conclusion too quickly b. Causes unsystematic, poorly organized review of options 2. Stress can have detrimental effects on certain aspects of memory functioning C. Burnout 1. Burnout is a syndrome involving physical, and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a lowered sense of self-efficacy that is attributable to work-related stress 2. Workplace factors promote burnout a. Work overload b. Interpersonal conflicts at work c. Lack of control over responsibilities and outcomes d. Inadequate recognition for one’s work e. Aversive physical conditions 42 CHAPTER 3 f. Rotating shift work 3. Burnout is associated with increased absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased vulnerability to health problems D. Psychological problems and disorders 1. Common psychological problems include poor academic performance, insomnia, nightmares, sexual difficulties, and drug and alcohol addiction 2. Studies indicate that stress may contribute to onset of psychological disorders (e.g., depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders) 1. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves enduring psychological disturbance attributed to the experience of a major traumatic event a. PTSD is widely associated with experienced war veterans, but occurs in response to other types of traumatic stress as well b. About 9% of people have suffered from PTSD at some point in their lives c. Traumatic events don’t need to be experienced directly to lead to PTSD d. Symptoms include nightmares and flashbacks, emotional numbing, alienation, problems in social relations, elevated arousal e. The intensity of one’s reaction at the time of the traumatic event predicts the likelihood of developing PTSD E. Physical illness 1. Psychosomatic diseases were defined as genuine physical ailments thought to be caused in part by stress and other psychological factors, especially emotional distress a. The classic psychosomatic illnesses were high blood pressure, peptic ulcers, asthma, skin disorders such as eczema and hives, and migraine and tension headaches b. Common misconception is that these diseases are imagined physical ailments 2. The concept of psychosomatic disease has fallen into disuse because stress contributes to so many diseases, so is nothing unique about the "psychosomatic" diseases F. Positive effects 1. Stress can promote positive psychological change or posttraumatic growth 2. Stressful events can help satisfy need for stimulation and challenge 3. Stress can inoculate people so that they are less affected by future stress V. Factors Influencing Stress Tolerance A. Social support 1. Social support refers to various types of aid and succor provided by members of one's social networks 2. Social support is favorably related to physical and mental health 3. A variety of mechanisms may underlie the connection between social support and wellness. Social support may a. Make appraisal of stressful events more benign b. Dampen the intensity of physiological responses c. Reduce health-impairing behaviors d. Encourage preventive behaviors e. Foster more constructive coping efforts 43 4. Providing social supports to others can also be beneficial 5. Researchers have begun to examine some of the negative aspects of social support B. Hardiness 1. Hardiness is a disposition marked by commitment, challenge, and control that is purportedly associated with strong stress resistance 2. May reduce effects of stress by altering stress appraisals or fostering more active coping 3. Hardiness can be learned and often derives from encouragement and social support C. Optimism 1. Optimism, a general tendency to expect good outcomes, tends to be associated with better mental and physical health 2. Explanatory styles may relate to health outcomes a. A pessimistic explanatory style, in which people tend to blame setbacks on their own shortcomings b. An optimistic explanatory style, in which people attribute setbacks to temporary situational factors 3. Optimists are more likely to engage in action-oriented, problem-focused, carefully planned coping, and are more willing to seek social support 4. Pessimists are more likely to deal with stress by avoiding it, giving up, or using denial 5. Optimism may not always be beneficial a. A rosy outlook may be inaccurate and unrealistic b. An “it can’t happen to me” attitude can lead to risky behaviors 6. Mid-levels of optimism, "closely tie tied to the strength of wisdom," may be most adaptive VI. Application: Reducing Stress through Self-Control A. Behavior modification: a systematic approach to changing behavior through the application of the principles of conditioning 1. Advocates assume that what is learned can be unlearned 2. Has been applied with great success in variety of settings 3. Has proven particularly valuable in efforts to improve self-control 4. Includes five main steps: specifying target behavior, gathering baseline data, designing program, executing and evaluating program, and ending program B. Specifying target behavior 1. Need to ponder past behavior or observe future behavior 2. Target behavior must be clearly defined, overt response C. Gathering baseline data 1. Involves systematically observing target behavior for period of time 2. Need to monitor three things a. Initial response level of target behavior b. Antecedents of target behavior (antecedents: events that typically precede the target response) c. Typical consequences of target behavior 44 CHAPTER 3 D. Designing your program 1. Increasing response strength a. Selecting a reinforcer b. Arranging the contingencies 1) Should set behavioral goals that are challenging and realistic 2) Should avoid giving yourself too much reinforcement a) Could become satiated b) One approach is to use token economy: a system for doling out symbolic reinforcers that are exchanged later for a variety of genuine reinforcers c. If target response is new behavior, situation calls for shaping, which is accomplished by reinforcing closer and closer approximations of the desired response 2. Decreasing response strength a. Reinforcement can be used in indirect way b. Control of antecedents c. Punishment 1) Should be used in conjunction with positive reinforcement 2) Should use relatively mild punishment E. Executing and evaluating your program 1. Strategies for increasing the likelihood of compliance with program a. Make up a behavioral contract: a written agreement outlining a promise to adhere to the contingencies of a behavior modification program b. Have someone else dole out reinforcers and punishments 2. Common flaws in behavior modification programs a. Depending on weak reinforcer b. Permitting lengthy delays between behavior and reinforcement c. Setting unrealistic goals F. Ending your program 1. Terminal goals should be established when program is designed 2. Good idea to phase out program through gradual reduction in frequency or potency of reinforcement 3. But should be prepared to re-institute program if necessary 45 DI
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