Psychologists studies in Biological Psychology

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Cohen et al. (1993)

  • 394 participants rate stress levels, completed questionairre on stressful events over past year and depression. Combined to make 'stress index' score.
  • Exposure to cold virus, 82 percent affected. After 7 days, most stress more likely to get full- blown cold (couldnt fight off) Higher stress index=positive correlation with developing a cold.
  • Immune function not measured directly, cannot confirm cause and effect as may be due to factors e.g. drinking, smoking, poor diet.
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Kiecolt-Glaser et al. (1984)

  • 75 medical students, completed questionairres on negative life events + social isolation. Immune functioned measured via activity of natural killer cells before and during end exams.
  • Immune significantly lower during end exams, lower with reports of high social isolation. Stress weakens immune functioning.
  • Direct measure of immune function but didnt investigate illness outcomes. Not generalisable, only medical students. Follow up studie showed similar outcomes, strengthening reliability.
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Segerstrom and Miller (2004)

Reviewed studies of stress and immune and concluded;

  • Short term stressors increases natural immunity (none specific immune)
  • Long term, chronic stressors weakens natural and specific immunity (global immunosupression) Makes you vunerable to illness.
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Holmes and Rahe (1967)

  • 394 people assess personal impact of stress value of 43 life events. Marriage as basline of 50 and death of spouse of 100. Others scaled in relation.
  • This created the Social Readjustment Rating Scale


  • Devised in 1960's US, Historically + culturally limited.
  • No allowance for individual differences.
  • There is no distinction between + and - life events.
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Rahe et al. (1970)

  • 2,500 male US Navy personnel completed SRRS for 6 months. Monitored 7 months after, all stress illness recorded.
  • Positive correlation of 0.118 between life stress scores and illness scores. Life event stress can cause illness.
  • Low correlation (0.118) showing weak relationship. Correlational, cannot give cause and effect. Low generalisability as sample specific.
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Marmot et al. (1997)

  • 7000 uk civil servants over 5 years, all free from heart problems. Workplace stressors factored in and lifestyle factors e.g. drinking, smoking, obesity.
  • Lowest grades had 1.5 times rate of heart disease compared to higher grades. Degree of personal control (decision latitude) most important.
  • Questionairres, self serving bias therfore emphasising effects of workplace. Office workers only, mix of sexes but not generalisable.
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Berger (2000) and Meichenbaum (1985)

  • Proved Stress Incocuation Therapy is effective for managing life stresses e.g. exams.
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Guidotti et al. (1990)

  • Benzodiazepines act in brain on pathways using neurotransmitter serotonin reducing anxiety and stress.
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Stevens and Pollack (2005)

  • Range of side effects (BZs): memory problems, tiredness, loss of coordination.
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Wilhelmsen et al. (1987)

  • Treatment for life-threatening hypertension as they can act quickly (Betablockers)
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