Fight or Flight (Walter Cannon 1932)
When a threat is perceived, the body is rapidly aroused and motivated via the sympathetic nervous and endocrine systems. Fight (attack) is an aggressive response to stress; Flight (flee) is withdrawal. Fight or flight is adaptive and allows you to quickly respond to threats. However, disruption lays groundwork for health problems.
Stress as an Absence (Levine & Ursin)
This theory of stress is based on a lack of control or information. When clear, salient safety clues are provided, stress is reduced. When clues are absent, stress increases. For an example of this, you can look to Martin Seligman’s research on learned helplessness. Seligman’s theory suggests that when placed in an inescapable situation, people will eventually stop trying to escape. And that even when an escape route is provided, they will not attempt to escape. Once you introduce them to the escape, however, they will learn from the experience and respond appropriately. This model assumes stress is more reflexive in nature.
Selye’s General Adaption Syndrome (Hans Selye 1956, 1976)
Selye exposed rats to stressors (extreme cold and fatigue) and observed physiological responses. All of them responded in the same, predictable pattern. Based on this research, Selye theorized that regardless of the stress, people respond with the same physiological patterns and reactions. Overtime, this creates wear and tear on their bodies. Selye’s belief was that this repeated or prolonged exhaustion is what lays the groundwork for disease. Some of the physiological changes Selye noted in chronically stressed individuals include:
- Enlarged adrenal cortex
- Shrinking of thymus and lymph glands
- Ulceration of stomach and duodenum
3 Phases of the General Adaption Syndrome
- Alarm – You become mobilized, and ready to meet the threat.
- Resistance – You make an effort to cope with threat.
- Exhaustion – You may fails to overcome, depleting your physiological resources in the process.
Criticisms of Seyle’s General Adaption Syndrome
- Assigns limited role to psychological fators (appraisial of events is important to experiencing stress)
- Assumes all responses to stress are the same; not all stressors produced the same endocrine responses. How people respond to stress is dependent upon their personalities, emotions and biological construction.
- Researchers bow believe that it’s the chronic activation, not the exhaustion, that leads to damage
- Stress is considered an outcome; sometimes people experience effects of stress while or before a stressor
Tend & Befriend (S. E. Taylor, Klein, et al.)
In addition to fight or flight, humans respond to stress with social affiliation and nurtuting behavior toward off-srping. Mor true of women, but also can be observed in men. Oxytocin is released during stressful events, and increases affiliative behavior. Itneracts with estrogen. People with high levels are calmer, and more relaxed.
Appraisal Process ( Lazarus & Folkman 1984)
This psychological view of stress theorizes that people confronted with a new environment engage in a process of primary appraisal to determine the meaning of the event (positive negative or neutral),and their ability to cope with it. In other words, something is only stressful if you think it is! In this model, there is more room for personal empowerment and individual differences. A person’s ability to cope with stress depends on their cognitive ability in both situations.
Lazarus and Folkman developed a “Daily Hassles” self-reporting scale that measured the number of hassles and uplifts in a month. Although it is more accommodating to the daily stress that people undergo – helps us to explain why we feel the way we do RIGHT NOW – it is not as flexible as Cohen’s survey. It does, however, allow for individual perceptions by assigning points to events.
3 Stage Appraisal Process
- Primary appraisal – Events are assessed as irrelevant (no impact on well-being), benign positive (positive, pleasurable emotions) or negative/stressful. Negative events are further appraised for harm (already done), threat (assessment of possible future damage) challenge (potential to overcome or profit; typical when an individual has more confident expectations of ability to cope, but may still lead them to experience negative stress).
- Secondary appraisal – The stage is an assessment of your coping abilities and resources. Are they sufficient to meet the demand? Responses may be both voluntary and involuntary, but include outcome expectancy (Will my behavior lead to successful coping?), and efficacy expectancy (Can I seriously successfully execute the behavior that will lead to successful coping?).
- Reappraisal – Individuals may revise their previous appraisals based on new information. This does not always happen, it is an optimal step in the process. Defensive reappraisals may include an effort to reinterpret past events as more positive… People have a tendency to look back and believe things were better than they did at the actual time, which can be a good self-protective strategy.
Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen)
Cohen’s theory of stress is one based on perceptions, rather than events. Rather than focusing on life events, or the number of events, this theory accounts for individual differences by allowing us to rate our feelings.
This is the most commonly used survey in health psychology today. However, most researchers will combine surveys and/or include a physio-measure in order to get a well-rounded, accurate evaluation.
Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SSRS) (Holmes & Rahe)
These psychologists suggested that illness occurs around major life events, and looked at stress as something that requires you to adapt. They created a survey which weighted a list of both positive and negative life events based on severity (last 6 months). There are many criticisms of the SSRS, including:
- They only sampled white males
- Did not allow for individual differences in perceptions and coping ability. The event that you view as negative or stressful, someone else may view as a positive.
- At this point, the study is outdated, and not relevant to today’s lifestyles.