Kiecolt-Glazer et al (1984)

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  • Created by: Toni Lowe
  • Created on: 03-06-13 17:07
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  • Kiecolt-Glazer et al (1984)
    • Procedure
      • 75 first year medical students (49 male - 26 female) volunteered to take part in a natural experiment.
        • Blood samples were taken 1 month before final exams (low stress condition) and on the first day of final exams (high stress condition).
          • T cell and natural killer cell counts were conducted.
            • The students were also asked to fill in a questionnaire that asked about psychiatric symptoms, loneliness and life events.
    • Conclusion
      • This study shows that stress is associated with immunosuppression and that effects can be stronger when there are multiple sources of stress.
    • Aim
      • To establish a link between stress and reduced immune functioning (immunosuppression).
    • Evaluation
      • Disadvantages
        • Natural experiment
          • Extraneous variables
            • Due to this experiment being a natural experiment, the researcher did not have as much control over the variables as they would have had if it was a laboratory study, allowing extraneous variables to have an effect on the dependent variable.
              • However, this problem was partially solved as a questionnaire was given out asking about psychiatric symptoms, loneliness and life events. The results from the questionnaires ruled out a lot of the possible extraneous variables that could have affected the results of the study.
        • Confounding variables
          • E.g. individual differences. Each person is likely to deal with stress in a different way, so the results of this study cannot be said to apply to everyone.
        • The use of questionnaires
          • Social desirability bias
            • This is when a participant doesn't give completely true answers. Instead they give answers that they believe to socially acceptable in order to avoid judgement.
        • Self selected sample of participants
          • Due to participants volunteering themselves for this study, the researcher may only get a certain type of person participating.
        • Generalisability and representativeness
          • Due to the participants being first year medical students, the results cannot easily be generalised to people outside of this group.
        • Ethical issues
          • Right to withdraw
            • With the  participants  concentrating on exams, they may feel obliged to carry on with the study as they do not want the extra hassle of having going to the researcher and requesting to be withdrawn.
          • Informed consent
            • Informed consent may be a problem as the participants would probably have not known the true aim of the study and so would not have been able to give their full consent. However, this problem could be solved through the debriefing of the participants.
        • Practical issues
          • Acquiring necessary data
            • It is hard to access data in schools / colleges / universities as it is stored in a database. Researchers would find it quite difficult to access this data, as it would not just be given out lightly to any random person.
      • Advantages
        • Natural experiment
          • Greater ecological validity
            • The study is more representative of real life as it has a naturally  occurring  IV and it is conducted in a natural environment.
        • Objectiveness
          • The number of T cells and natural killer cells is fact, not interpretation so the researcher can be sure of the numbers, giving the opportunity for the researcher to find accurate measurements and differences.
        • The use of questionnaires
          • The questionnaires in this study came as an advantage as they ruled out a lot of the possible extraneous variables that could have affected the dependent variable, and results (as stated in the disadvantages-under "confounding variables").
          • Participants may feel that they are able to give true information about themselves without being judged, if the questionnaire is  anonymous.
    • Findings
      • Natural  killer cell and T cell count did decline between the lower stress condition and the high stress condition.
        • This confirms the assumption that stress is associated with reduced immune functioning.
          • Questionnaire results revealed that immune responses were particularly suppressed in those who reported that they were experiencing psychiatric symptoms, loneliness or life events.


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