Health Psychology Methodology


Health Psychology Methodology



Definition of Health Psychology

·      Focuses on areas of health where mental processes are involved such as sleep, stress, drug misuse, how people cope with life-threatening illnesses, and mental disorders

·      Focus is on preventing problems from arising, including prevention of risk taking and unhealthy behaviour, as well as on helping people after they have health problems.


Animal laboratory studies looking at substance misuse

·      Careful controls of all aspects except the variables to be manipulated and those to be measured

·      There will be an independent variable that is manipulated when all other variables are kept the same.

·      The IV is manipulated in order to see the effect of a dependent variable that is measured

·      Controls include environment, type of animal and state of animal.

·      Cause-and-effect conclusions are aimed at.

·      Scientific equipment can be used to help with controls and measurement.

·      Animal laboratory studies are used to look at drugs

Link between drug use and kidney disease

·      Kidneys can fail to function properly (renal disease) and this has been linked to drug use.

·      Animal studies suggest that renal disease is connected more to cocaine than to heroin use and this suggests that the drug itself is important (that not all drugs lead to renal disease).

·      Mice are given either heroin or cocaine in various doses and their renal function is tested

·      All other factors are kept the same

·      The drug (heroin or cocaine) is the IV and the renal functioning is the DV.


·      Strengths

o   Studies using animals in laboratory conditions are replicable because of the carefully controlled conditions and procedures, so reliability can be tested for.

o   Studies giving cause-and-effect, scientific conclusions have more weight and conclusions are seen as stronger because of issues such as objectivity and lack of interpretation in the findings.

·      Weaknesses

o   Other studies, not animal experiments, have found that economic conditions, culture and behaviour were more likely to relate to renal disease than heroin (e.g. Jaffe and Kimmer 2006) which suggests that such experiments do not tell the whole story.

o   Experiments tend not to be valid, as the above point suggests, because (due to the careful controls) only one factor is studied, whereas renal disease is likely to have other causes apart from, or as well as, drug usage.

o   Animal studies also tend not to be valid – generalizing from animals to humans might not give valid results because humans and animals are different.


Drugs as reinforcers

·      Meisch (2001) used animals in laboratory conditions and looked at the animals taking the drugs themselves (oral self-administration).

·      For example, rhesus monkeys were given the chance to take the drug to see if they would do so – the question was whether the drug was rewarding enough to be


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