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  • Created by: Cammie
  • Created on: 09-05-13 22:48


Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand

If the perceived demands of the environment and our perceived ability to cope with those demands are not matching, we feel stressed

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Stressors are events that throw the body out of balance

For example, exams, divorce

They force it to respond

For example, noise, pain

A stress response can be important

It leads to physiological arousal

This is important for survival

It can increase motivation and concentration

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Hypothalamic Pituitary-Adrenal System

A stressor stimulates the hypothalamus

This stimulates the pituitary gland, which secretes ACTH

In turn, this stimulates the adrenal cortex, which produces corticosteroids

The body and fatty tissues then release their energy reserves

Therefore glucose levels increases

Levels of corticosteroids also increase

This depresses the body’s immune system

This is a chronic response

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Autonomic Nervous System

A stressor stimulates the hypothalamus

This then activates the sympathetic nervous system

This stimulates adrenal medulla, which then secretes adrenaline

The sympathetic branch prepares the body for the ‘fight or flight’ response

The heart rate increases

Stomach activity and saliva production is reduced

Pupils dilate, and glucose levels increase

The parasympathetic branch then relaxes the body

It reduces the heart rate

Stomach activity and saliva production return as normal

Pupils contract, and glucose stores are reserved

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Experimental data

The systems are based on experimental data, which is credited for being very scientific

Scientific measures

This suggests the amount of stress can be measured objectively, using a blood test of the stress hormones

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Lacks validity

Much of the research has been done on animals, and therefore may not apply to humans. Humans are more likely to respond to stress with psychological as well as biological responses

Individual differences

Different stressors affect different people in different ways. Moreover, individual interpretations’ affect their physiological responses. Mason found that individuals produce different levels of stress hormones, even though they’ve been exposed to the same stressor

Experimental research

Taylor found that acute stress produces the ‘fight or flight’ response in men, but produces the ‘tend and befriend’ response in women. This may be due to women producing more oxytocin, a nurturing hormone. It could also be because women have a greater role in caring for offspring

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