AS Psychology Unit 2 Stress/Biological AQA A

My notes on the body's response to stress. Includes experimenters and the odd picture to cheer things up a little. :)

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  • Created on: 06-05-12 15:27
Preview of AS Psychology Unit 2 Stress/Biological AQA A

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The term "stress" was introduced into psychology from mechanical engineering-
refers to the tension placed on metal by heavy loads.
SELYE 1956 ­ noticed rats that were given daily injections developed stomach
ulcers. Wondered if cause was injections or stress - realised it was the stress. He mapped out the
body's physiological responses to stressful stimuli and found that all stressful stimuli produce same
stress response. (Stressors = stimulus or situations which are demanding to individual)
COX AND MACKEY 1978 & LAZARUS AND FOLKMAN 1984 ­ emphasis individual differences, give a
major role to cognitions. Called a transactional model (model of stress that defines it as an
imbalance between perceived demands and perceived coping responses). Key process is appraisal.
Primary Appraisal: person assesses the situation ­ identifies potential threats/demands.
Secondary Appraisal: person assesses their ability to cope with threats/demands.
If an imbalance is found, stress takes place.
Neuron: cells that make up nervous
system. They are coated in cell
membrane, which has a biochemical
structure which allows it to
conduct/transmit electrical pulses
(action potentials/nerve impulses).
Nerve impulses start their journey
on the dendrites, and then travel
along cell body and axon. Axons can
have up to a thousand branches
connecting via synapses to other
neurons. Nerve impulses are the
units of information processing in
the nervous system and they cover
memory, language, perception, emotion...
Synapse: like an invisible bridge. The synapse is a tiny gap between the axon terminal
and the next neuron.
Neurotransmitters: the presynaptic terminal in the axon contains loads of
neurotransmitters. The nerve impulse travels down the axon, reaches the axon terminal
and stimulates the release of neurotransmitter molecules into the synapse. Once the
neurotransmitter reaches the postsynaptic membrane it binds briefly to the receptor. This alters the
biochemical characteristics of the postsynaptic membrane, increasing the chances of a nerve impulse
being triggered. A nerve impulse is an all or nothing principle because it will only be triggered if
enough neurotransmitters were released. The synapse is a crucial part of information processing in
the nervous system. We can define synapses by the neurotransmitters that are released across

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GABA (anti-anxiety), Dopamine (action of anti-psychotic drugs), Serotonin (anti-depressant)
and Noradrenaline (hormone).
The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system (CNS). Radiating from the spinal
cord are the spinal nerves (referred to as peripheral nervous system PNS) which contain nerve
pathways, connecting the CNS with organs. Sensory information is carried in sensory pathways that
run to the CNS in the spinal nerves. The brain also needs to be connected to our skeleton, to control
muscle movement.…read more

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Cerebral Hemispheres: high level cognitive and emotional processes are controlled from these
centres. There are three major systems: limbic system, basal ganglia and cerebral cortex.
The Limbic System: this includes the hippocampus, amygdala, septum and cingulate gyrus. They are
involved in learning, memory and in particular emotions. The limbic system has major interconnections
with the hypothalamus in the diencephalon and many regions of the cortex.
Basal Ganglia: this has important functions in relation to motor control.…read more

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Cellular Immunity: this involves a number of different types of cells called T-lymphocytes, produced
in the thymus gland. They include killer T cells, memory T cells and helper T cells. Together these T
cells attack intracellular (inside the cell) pathogens.
Humoral Immunity: this is co-ordinated by another subset of lymphocytes called B cells. They grow
and mature in bone marrow. They secrete antibodies that attack and destroy extracellular (outside
the cell) pathogens.…read more

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Meta-review: research technique which looks at results from all papers studying a similar problem
and statistically analyses them together. It can employ qualitative or quantitative data.
Upregulation: improvement or increase in immune functioning.
Downregulation: impairment or reduction in immune functioning.
Global immunosuppression: downregulation (inhibition) of all immune system components. It can
be caused by chronic stress.
Segerstrom and Miller 2004 ­ preformed a meta review on 293 studies and concluded: Acute time
limited stressors leads to an upregulation of natural immunity.…read more

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Measuring stress: there are special questionnaires for the workplace and ones for assessing general
life stress. They include self-report questionnaires on frequency of life stress, major life events or
minor stresses, self-report questionnaires on perceived or subjective stress and semi-structured
interviews in which you talk through your life stressors with a trained interviewer who will assess the
impact of those stresses.…read more

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Methodological issues: sample was culturally specific. They recorded all illness outcomes ­ how do
we know which were stress induced? Correlations only apply to an association not causality. They
are good ethically as no independent variables are manipulated. However other factors may have
affected health ­ people who experience major life events may turn to alcohol or tobacco. Ethical
issues: informed consent and debriefing. May be distress in recalling major life events.…read more

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Workplace stress is now considered one on the major sources of stress. Nursing, police work and
teaching in particular have high levels of stress associated with them. This is an important source of
stress as it not only affects the individual but can lead to poor performance, increased absenteeism
and stress related illness. It is important that organisations identify and minimise sources of stress
and help employees copes with them.…read more

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However this study does support others that make a connection between stress and low levels of
control at work. Hohanson et al 1978 found higher levels of stress hormones and stress related
illness in a group of highly skilled sawmill workers whose work was machine paced, which obviously
gives them little or no control over their work rate. Ethical issues: little psychological harm.
Informed consent and debriefing. Workers who do develop illness should be provided with
necessary support.…read more

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Only half the studies find a link between TAB and CHD. Booth-Kewley and
Friedman 1987 found one key characteristic was more important that others, namely hostility and
other negative emotions. Supported by Dembroski et al 1989 found hostility more linked to CHD
than the overall TAB score. Miller et al 1996 meta review, again hostility stands as a risk factor
independent of TAB.
Conclusions from research into Type A Behaviour ­ Friedman and Rosenman's Type A behaviour
research has generated lots more research and interest.…read more


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