PSYA2 - Studies for Biologyical Psychology - Stress

These are the Research Studies from the Biological Psycholgoy - Stress for the AQA Psycholgoy A PSYA2 paper

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Biological Psychology
The Body's response to stress
Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome
Selye developed a threestage model to describe how the body responds to stressors,
Stage 1: Alarm
A stressor is perceived and the HPA axis and the SAM pathway are activated. Levels
of stressrelated hormones surge, heart rate and blood pressure increase, and
energy reserves are mobilised
Stage 2: Resistance
If the stressor persists the body's response systems maintain their activation, with
levels of stressrelated hormones and bodily arousal remaining high
Stage 3: Exhaustion
Long periods of stress (chronic stress) eventually exhaust the body's defence
systems and its ability to maintain high levels of circulating stress hormones. This is
the stage when stressrelated illnesses may develop
Selye's work has been extremely influenced in developing the whole area of research
into stress. He emphasised the central roles of the HPA axis and the SAM pathway
links between chronic stress and illness
Selye emphasised that the GAS, (general adaption syndrome) was a common
response to all stressors.
It is now thought that stressrelated illnesses are not caused by exhaustion of the
body's physiological stress responses. Rather, it is the effect of chronic or
longlasting raised levels of stress hormones that can eventually lead to illness.
Stressrelated illness and the immune system
Cohen et al (1993)
Cohen et al investigated the role of general life stress on vulnerability to the common cold
virus. 394 participants completed questionnaires on the number of stressful life events they
had experienced in the previous year. They also rated their degree of stress and their level of
negative emotions such as depression.
The three scores were combined into what Cohen et al called a stress index.
The participants were then exposed to the common cold virus, leading to 82% becoming
infected with the virus. After 7 days the number whose infection developed into clinical colds

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The findings were that the chance of developing a cold was significantly
correlated with the stress index scores.
Cohen et al concluded that life stress and negative emotions reduce the effectiveness of our
immune system, leaving participants less able to resist viral infections.
Methodological Issues
This was an indirect study in that there were no direct measures of immune function.…read more

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In contrast with Cohen et al this study did not assess actual illness outcomes
although it did have a direct measure of immune function. Although reductions in
immune function should make people more vulnerable to illness, it might be that the
significant reductions seen in this study are still too small to increase the chances of
stressrelated illnesses.
However KiecoltGlaser's group have shown that small wounds take longer to heal in
highly stressed groups such as carers for Alzheimer patients.…read more

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LCU's), and the whole scale called the social readjustment rating scale
Methodological Issues
The main issue is that this study was carried out in the US and so the events and how they
were rated would have been culturally specific. In addition there was no objective
assessment of the degree of adjustment necessary they relied on participant's opinions.
Ethical Issues
As a questionnaire study was no manipulation of variables there are no serious ethical issues
with this type of study.…read more

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Workplace Stress
Marmot et al (1997)
Marmot et al analysed data from over 7000 participants in the Whitehall 2 study. Participants
were followed up over five years. All were free of heart problems when the study began/ the
data showed similar differences in heart disease to Whitehall 1, with the rate in the lowest
grades being 1.5 times the rate in the highest grades.…read more

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Rosenman et al
concluded that the high TAB individual was vulnerable to heart disease.
Methodological Issues
The study is culturally and gender specific and findings should be generalised with
caution. Note that even the definition of TAB is based on western cultural concepts.
There are many individual and lifestyle variables that can affect vulnerability to heart
disease. Although some of these were controlled for, it is possible that some
important variable was missed.…read more


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