Chapter 1: The Development of the Field
What is Health Psychology?
• 1970s: psychological principles applied to understand & improve health & health
Behavioural Medicine (1977):
a branch of medicine concerned with the relationship between health and
behavior. This focus is usually on remediation
Health Psychology (1980):
“the application of psychological principles to the diagnosis and treatment of
illness as well as to people’s attempts to maintain health and wellbeing”
• Health psychology is the aggregate of the specific educational, scientific,
and professional contributions of the discipline of psychology to the
promotion and maintenance of health, the prevention or treatment of
illness, and the identification of etiologic and diagnostic correlated of
health, illness, and related dysfunction.
• Compilation of all that psychology has to offer to the diagnosis and
treatment of illness as well as to people’s attempt to maintain health and
• Beyond biology: psychological causes, sociological causes, and environmental
• Health is best achieved through a partnership between medical and social science.
• Definition by WHO:
o Health: a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not
merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
• Psychosomatic medicine: approach in which a particular medical complaint is
viewed as being the result of an underlying chronic emotional conflict that
ultimately surfaces in the form of physiological symptoms.
o Example: hypertension (high blood pressure) is connected to an inability
to express feelings of anger
The Development of Health Psychology As a Discipline
• Neal Miller (1983)
• Traced development of biomedical perspective on illness to germ theory: the
discovery that many illnesses are caused by the activity of microorganisms (e.g.,
bacteria) à Rise of technical medicine
o From the germ theory comes the development of antibiotics to fight these
o Emphasis on the technical aspects of medicine
Technical medicine is ineffective in treating health problems
caused by lifestyles and other psychosocial factors.
• Behavioral perspective: health is affected by what we do rather than what we
think • Miller explained medical noncompliance by:
o Gradient of reinforcement: gradual weakening of a behaviour the further
it gets in time from the reinforcement of that behavior
Greater the lag time between the behavior and the reinforcement,
the weaker the behavior will be.
o Delayed gratification: Time lag between a behaviour and its
• Asymptomatic: conditions that are not accompanied by palpable symptoms or
o Ex: 40% of the patients prescribed to a medication for high blood pressure
no longer take the medicine
• Following instructions to take antibiotics or changing lifestyle – explained by
o Changing lifestyle – asymptomatic;
o Antibiotic – immediate
Cognitive and Personality
• Made some people look at situations as stressful while the others may not look at
it as stressful situations Studying ways to reduce stress:
o Social support
o Cognitive restructuring
• Greater appreciation of personality & cognitive factors in health:
• Changing people’s interpretations of stressful events (cognitive
• Type A construct in health research: Role of hostility
• Applying biopsychosocial approach to smoking and eating disorders
• Study of the relation between behavior and CV health ▯what