The body’s response to stress AO1
(Q1 specimen paper; Q1 additional)
• SAM – short term response
• Gets body ready for fight or flight
• Sympatho Adrenal Medullary system
• Adrenaline and noradrenaline released
• Body reactions
– INCREASE IN ENERGY
– INCREASE IN BLOOD FLOW
– INCREASED HEART AND RESPIRATION RATE
– REDUCED ACTIVITY IN DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
– RELASE OF CLOTTING FACTORS INTO BLOODSTREAM
– INCREASE IN BLOOD PRESSURE
– NOT ONLY FOR STRESS, ALSO FOR EXCITEMENT
• HPA –long term reaction
• Hypothalamic Pituitary Adreno cortical axis
• Cortisol is released
• Body response:
– MAINTAIN STEADY SUPPLY OF FUEL
– ELEVATE OR STABILISE BLOOD GLUCOSE CONCENTRATION
– MAINATAIN SALTS & WATER
– BALANCE IMMEDIATE STRESS REACTION
– USES UP BODY RESOURCES AT ACCELERATED RATE
– SLOWS WOUND HEALING (SLOWS ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
– SUPPRESSES IMMUNE SYSTEM
Body response to stress – AO2
• Selye found that when rats were exposed to noxious agents they
went through three stages of symptoms: alarm, resistance and
• Since the symptoms were the same for each agent then the
symptoms must be due to a general state which he called stress.
This is known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
• This suggests that the idea of a physiological response to stress has
wider academic credibility.
• Baxter (1981) found that people who did not have adrenal glands
cannot produce enough cortisol and therefore needed to be given
additional quantities if stressed in order to survive. This suggests
that the idea of a physiological response to stress has wider
• A final strength of HPA and SAM comes from further empirical
support from Brady’s executive monkey research. He found that
stress affected the production of digestive hormones causing
stomach ulcers that eventually resulted in death. This suggests
that there is wider academic credibility for the idea of stress being
governed by the release of hormones.
• One weakness of the physiological approach to stress is that it
ignores individual differences.
• Mason (1975) found that hormone levels (adrenaline and
noradrenaline) were different in individuals even though they had
been exposed to the same stressors meaning that individuals may
deal with stress in different ways. This suggests that the
physiological response to stress cannot be generalised.
• A second weakness of the physiological approach to stress is that it
• A person’s response depends on a number of different factors.
These include the type of stressor involved and the way the person
interprets the threat.
• This suggests that the physiological approach to stress may be an
David has unexpectedly been made redundant. David sits
down and considers the options open to him and their likely
outcomes. He decides on his priorities and acts directly to deal
with the stressful situation. David has adopted a problem-
focused approach to coping with stress.
Jon has unexpectedly been made redundant. He feels angry
and frustrated, and he vents those feelings. He then tries to
keep up his hopes about the future, and he works hard to
control his emotions. Jon has adopted an emotion-focused
approach to coping with stress.
Problem and emotion focused
• Endler and Parker (1990) devised the Multi-dimensional
Coping Inventory to describe three major coping strategies:
– Task-oriented or problem-focused strategy: obtain information
about the stressful situation – consider alternative courses of
action and their likely outcome – decide on priorities – put plan
– Emotion-oriented or emotion-focused strategy: remain hopeful
– try to control emotions – vent feelings of anger and frustration
as safety valve, especially when it is difficult to see the way
– Avoidance-oriented strategy: bury head in the sand – deny or
minimise the seriousness of the situation – consciously suppress
stressful thoughts – replace negative thinking by self-protective
Which kind of coping strategy is best
at reducing stress?
• Generally-speaking, problem-focused strategies
work best when the individual has the resources
and means to resolve the situation.
• In contrast, emotion-focused strategy may be
preferable, at least on a temporary basis, when
the individual lacks the means to resolve the
• However, individuals with the Type A behaviour
pattern, including an overriding need to
achieve, often rush to the problem-focused
approach even when it is not appropriate.
• PROCEDURE: PPs indicated the coping strategies they
had used to handle stressful events. They were also
asked to rate the extent to which the outcome had
• RESULTS: planned problem solving was associated to
satisfactory outcomes. Emotion-focused coping such as
confrontative coping (eg expressing anger) and
distancing (eg trying to forget the problem) were
associated with unsatisfactory outcomes.
• CONCLUSIONS: there is evidence favouring the use of
problem-focused coping (main effect hypothesis).
Collins et al (1983)
Three Mile island
• Studied people living close to Three Mile Island
shortly after a major nuclear incident.
• FINDINGS: those using problem-focused coping
strategies were significantly more distressed than
those using emotion-focused strategies
• Goodness of fit hypothesis: problem-focused
more effective if stressor is perceived as
controllable, BUT emotion-focused is better when
perceived as uncontrollable
Stress related illness (Q2 specimen)
• Coronary Heart Disease (Friedman &
• Ulcers (Brady)
• Type B diabetes
• Viruses (Cohen)
Stress and illness
• Jemmot (1985) - students during examination
periods had lower counts in antibodies
concerned with fighting respiratory disease
• Glaser (1987) found similar results
• Brady (1958) – in stressed individuals, the high
levels of adrenaline can lead to stomach
ulcers, especially if stress is prolonged
Environmental factors affecting stress (Q3 specimen;
Q2 additional; Q4 additional; Q3 further)
– Life changes (Holmes & Rahe, 1967) and SRRS
(Social Readjustment Rating Scale) with evaluation
– Daily hassles (DeLongis, 1982) hassles and uplifts
– Workplace stress studies
• Johansson et al. (1978) work related stress in highly
• Warr (1996) major workplace stressors
• Marmot et al (1997) low control at work and stress
• Social isolation. In some work situations, workers are isolated from each other for long periods of time.
This often happens on production lines where machines control the work operations. Workers have few
opportunities to communicate socially with each other. Social isolation is related to various indicators of
stress, for example, high levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. Work should be organised so that
workers have regular opportunities for social contact with each other.
• Work overload. One way of identifying work overload is in terms of the number of hours worked per
week. A number of studies suggest a link between long hours, stress and ill health. For example, a study
of workers under the age of 45 in light industry found that those who worked more than 48 hours per
week were twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who worked 40 hours or less
(Breslow & Buell, 1960). The amount of work done by workers should be regularly checked and adjusted
to ensure mental and physical health.
• Other stressors in the workplace may include:
– 1. Working conditions (environmental stressors such as noise, temperature, overcrowding, risk & danger).
– 2. Roles at work (e.g. role conflict, role ambiguity, levels of responsibility)
– 3. Relationships at work (e.g. with immediate line manager)
– 4. Career development (job security, redundancy, retirement)
– 5. Organisational (e.g. the feeling of involvement & belonging)
• It is important to remember that is the perception of work overload by a worker rather than simply the
number of hours worked. In this sense, work overload is a perception
• held by a worker that he is required to work too long/hard. Something only becomes a stressor when the
individual perceives it as such. Therefore, every individual is making transactions with the environment
around him throughout his life.
• Psychological research has provided evidence
to support the view that stress can be caused
by life changes. It has also provided evidence
of individual differences in response to sources
Discuss the view that stress is environmentally
determined (12 marks)
– Life changes
– Daily hassles
• Physical: crowding, noise, temperature
– Role conflict
– Lack of control
– Supporting research evidence
– Usefulness and application of findings
– Methodological issues in research
– Contradictory evidence
– Individual differences and personality factors
– Alternative explanations to stress (personality
Discuss the view that stress is
environmentally determined (12 marks)
Holmes & Rahe found that life Rahe (1970) found that there was a
significant correlation of +0.118 between
changes affected well being
life changes and illness. PPs were 2500
• Eg death of spouse, new job, marriage
male US navy personnel
(anything involving change) – SRRS
• implications: awareness of the need of
• DeLongis states daily hassles, in the stress management techniques when
long run, are more harmful (and experiencing life events.
common) than life changes
• correlation: it is not possible to establish
• Stress at work can be due to physical causality
or job-related issues • DeLongis got PPs to complete
• Job related stress: mainly due to lack hassles, uplifts and life changes + health
of control, opportunity to use questionnaires for a year and found that
skills, money, role conflict, social frequency and intensity of hassles were
associated with illness
isolation and work overload
• Marmot et al (1997) found that there is a
Physical issues may include
negative correlation between job control
crowding, the physical looks of the
and stress and illness
environment, noise and temperature
• Also PERSONALITY FACTORS could be
involved in stress response (eg type AB
Personality factors affecting stress + evaluation
(Q3 specimen; Q5 additional)
• Type A and Type B (Frienman and Rosenman)
• Hardiness (Kobasa)
Q5 additional: Discuss psychological evidence that suggests
personality can affect our experience of stress (6 marks)
• Characteristics of Type A include an overriding need to achieve, a
highly competitive nature and a tendency to show anger and
• In contrast, Type B individuals tend to be more relaxed and are far
less hostile and aggressive.
• Research has shown that Type A individuals respond more actively
to stressors; they are more easily “wound up”, tend to
overreact, and are often at “boiling point”. This may cause excessive
wear and tear of their bodies, especially the cardio-vascular system.
• The Type A personality has been associated with
hypertension, chronic high blood pressure. Chronic hypertension
puts strains on both the heart and the arteries.
Personality factors affecting stress
• Friedman & Rosenman (1974) found evidence for the role of individual differences in men’s
ways of dealing with stressful situations.
• They concluded that men who displayed Type A behaviour were far more likely to develop
CHD than other men.
• Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the biggest single cause of death in modern industrialised
societies. In Britain, almost 50% of all deaths result from CHD. Around half of these deaths
may be related to stress, and stress may be related to individual personality types.
• Friedman & Rosenman (1974) assessed the personality types of 3500 healthy middle-aged
men as part of a 12 year longitudinal study. Participants were asked questions relating to
impatience, competitiveness, motivation for success, frustration at goals being hindered, and
their feelings towards being under pressure.
• High scorers were described as ‘Type A’ personalities while low scorers were described as
‘Type B’ personalities. More than twice as many of the Type A personalities went on to
develop cardiovascular disorders than did Type B personalities.
• They concluded that men who displayed Type A behaviour were far more likely to develop
CHD than other men.
• Further research revealed that angina sufferers tended to be Type A personalities who were
impatient with other people and susceptible to feeling pressure at work. Those with heart
failure tended to comprise Type A personalities who rushed through life with hasty personal
habits and over-loaded schedules.
Personality factors affecting stress
• Hardiness (Kobasa)
• Hardy individuals have the three Cs:
– Commitment: more involved in what they do and have a
direction in life.
– Challenge: they view potentially stressful situations as a
challenge and an opportunity rather than as a problem to treat.
– Control: they have a stronger sense of personal control. They
feel they can influence events in their lives.
• Hardy individuals are healthier because of:
– DIRECT EFFECTS: hardy individuals get less stressed; but also
– BUFFERING EFFECT: hardy individuals cope better if level of
stress increases: they are more resistant to the adverse effects
Q3 additional: stress management
evaluation - SIT
• Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) was developed by Donald Meichenbaum and his
• This is a cognitive-behavioural approach to stress management that involves
training the individual to recognise stress symptoms (cognitive recognition) and
then learn certain skills (behavioural) to reduce the stress.
– Assessment – therapist discusses nature of the problem with the patient
– Stress reduction techniques – patient learns many techniques to reduce stress such as
relaxation and self-instruction(COGNITIVE STAGE)
– Application and follow-through – patient imagines or role-plays stressful situations with
therapist. After that, starts to using techniques in real life (BEHAVIOURAL STAGE)
• Meichenbaum believes that people sometimes find things stressful because they
think about them in self-defeating ways. He believes that SIT’s ‘power of positive
thinking’ approach can successfully change people’s behaviour.
• Some behaviourists suggest that focusing on internal thoughts is unscientific, but it
has proved successful, especially in reducing exam nerves and the anxiety
associated with severe pain.
Stress management evaluation
• Stress Management programmes have several strengths. Most
importantly, they try to equip the individual with skills he can
use in a variety of stressful situations; these are transferable
skills. SIT in particular has proved effective in the long term as
long as the individual keeps on practising the coping skills.
• These programmes combine both cognitive and behavioural
approaches that usually produce the most lasting changes.
• In addition, unlike physical approaches to stress
management, such as drugs, they are not invasive, they cannot
cause dependency, and they do not have undesirable side-
• On the other hand, stress management programmes require
time, money and commitment.
• They seem to be relevant for the affluent few rather than the
• Suzanna Kobasa and other psychologists have
developed hardiness training programmes.
• These programmes encourage participants to
learn three main strategies:
– (1) to recognise and identify the reality and the
symptoms of their stress;
– (2) to consider how they coped with similar stressful
events in the past, and to employ similar coping
– (3) to take on a fresh challenge in their lives and
experience success again.
The immune system
• The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that
travel through the bloodstream.
• They move in and out of tissues and organs, defending the
body against foreign bodies (antigens), such as
bacteria, viruses and cancerous cells.
• The main types of immune cells are white blood cells
(leucocytes) including T cells, B cells, and natural killer
• Cells in the immune system have receptors for various
chemical substances involved in the stress response.
• When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight
off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more
susceptible to infections.
The immune system (continued)
• NATURAL IMMUNITY: natural killer cells, all-
purpose cells that act rapidly attacking
antigens (bacteria and viruses)
• SPECIFIC IMMUNITY: T-helper cells and B cells
involved, much more specific and take longer
Segerstorm and Miller (2004)
• Meta-analysis to summarise effects of stress on
– Short-lived stressors increase natural immunity but
don’t alter specific immunity
– Long-term stress like losing a spouse reduces natural
– Stressors such as disasters produce small increase in
natural AND specific immunity.
– Life events are associated with significant reduction in
BOTH natural and specific immunity in individuals over
Cortisol and stress
• Cortisol is an important hormone in the
body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved
in the following functions and more:
– Proper glucose metabolism
– Regulation of blood pressure
– Insulin release for blood sugar maintanence
– Immune function
– Inflammatory response
• Normally, it’s present in the body at higher levels
in the morning, and at its lowest at night.
Cortisol and stress (continued)
• Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:
– A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
– Heightened memory functions
– A burst of increased immunity
– Lower sensitivity to pain
– Helps maintain homeostasis in the body
• While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s
response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation
response to be activated so the body’s functions can return
to normal. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress
culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often
that functioning often doesn’t have a chance to return to
normal, producing chronic stress.
Cortisol and stress (continued)
• Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the
bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have
been shown to have negative effects, such as:
– Impaired cognitive performance
– Suppressed thyroid function
– Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
– Decreased bone density
– Decrease in muscle tissue
– Higher blood pressure
– Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, as
well as other health consequences
– Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater
amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of
the body. Some of the health problems associated with
increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the
development of , higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and
lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to
other health problems
Discuss the use of drugs to manage the negative effects
of stress (8 marks)
• Benzodiazepines (eg Valium • Rapid action and generally
and Librium) well tolerated
• Increase GABA • If used for long, can have
production, that decreases serious side effects like
serotonin activity, therefore cognitive impairment
reducing arousal (Stewart, 2005)
• Beta blockers reduce heart • Lau et al. (1992) in meta-
rate and blood pressure analysis found that beta-
blockers reduced risk of
• Act by blocking receptors
heart failure by 20%
for adrenaline and
• Lockwood (1989) found that
beta-blockers also improved
performance in orchestral
Conformity – majority influence
In Psychology, conformity has two meanings.
• Firstly, it means that the individual is acting in
terms of the accepted behaviour of a social
– For example, most Sixth Formers will behave like the
majority of the Sixth Formers around them to keep
their approval and acceptance.
• Secondly, conformity means a change in the
behaviour of a minority to fit the behaviour of the
– For example, in a jury room two jurors who believe
the accused is not guilty may change their opinion to
guilty simply to confirm with the opinion of the 10 in
Definition of conformity
Conformity is sometimes called
majority influence and it is where
a person adopts the
attitudes, beliefs and behaviours
of people in a particular group.
Describe the aims and procedures and findings and conclusions of one study
of conformity (majority influence). Then give two criticisms of the
investigation. (SOLOMON ASCH)
• Aims: Solomon Asch (1951) AIMED to investigate how far an individual would conform to the
responses of the majority even when the majority was clearly wrong.
• Procedures: Asch tested 123 American male college students who worked in groups between
seven and nine in size. In each group one naïve participant was subjected to pressure when
the stooges gave what was clearly the wrong answer. Members of the group were asked to
estimate the length of a line in comparison with three others lines. The participants called out
the answers one after the other with the naïve calling out last or second last. The stooges
called out the wrong answer deliberately 12 times out of 18 trials. Which line is similar to line
X? If others tell you it is A, you might not trust your own judgement.
• Findings: Conformity was measured by the number of times the naïve participants gave
• the same wrong answers as the stooges on the critical trials. Overall, there was a conformity
rate of 32%. In other words, the naïve participants conformed to the wrong answers about a
third of the critical trials.
• Conclusions: individual by subjecting him/her to group pressure. Asch concluded that the
majority can have a significant influence on an individual by subjecting him/her to group
– + The task was unambiguous. The answers were clearly right or wrong. Therefore, conformity could
be measured in an objective way.
– - Participants were stressed. Some participants reported getting quite stressed when the stooges
gave the wrong answer on critical trials. This could be considered unethical. Also, the naïve
participants were clearly deceived about what was really going on.
Research studies investigating conformity have often used laboratory-based
ExplainTWO limitations of laboratory-based experiments into conformity (2+2
• Lack of ecological validity
– Asch used a group of strangers: if they had been
friends, the influence would have been more
meaningful (Abrams, 1990)
– Unrealistic setting: not likely to be in such setting
when making real life decisions
• Lack of mundane realism
– The task wasn’t realistic, and was not meaningful
– Participants may not have felt involved in the
Why do people conform?
(Q3b additional; Q1 further)
• Within any culture, normative and informational influences will play an
important role in determining levels of conformity.
• Conformity will also depend to some extent on cultural factors. People living in
so called collectivist cultures such as China and Japan will conform more readily
than those in individualist cultures such as the UK and the USA where individual
success are values are regarded more highly than the group success of
• Group size is also important in determining whether or not a person will
conform. Research suggests that as the size of the group increases, so
conformity will increase, above all, if opposition to the individual is unanimous.
For example, in the jury situation, a person outnumbered 11-1 will find it much
harder to resist the majority than a split of 10-2. Therefore, people will often
conform in order to preserve group unanimity.
• To some extent, conformity can be explained by individual temperament and
personality. These personality characteristics can be very influential. People
with low self-esteem, a need for approval, feelings of insecurity or anxiety will
usually conform more readily than other people. However, the behaviour of the
same individuals will vary on different occasions and in different situations.
Q3 additional:(b) Identify the type of social influence illustrated in the
situation described below. Refer to features of the situation to justify your
answer. (3 marks)
• Normative social influence means being
influenced by others to conform to their
behaviour (social/group norms) because of a
desire to gain their approval and acceptance.
– For example, you join the Sea Cadets – you spend the
first few sessions doing what others around you do
because you wish to be accepted in their group. In
other words, you conform to the social norms of the
group you wish to belong to.
• Informational social influence means being
influenced by others because of the belief they
are more knowledgeable in a certain situation
Ethics for humans (Q2 additional
• Briefing and debriefing
• Informed consent vs deception
• Ethics comitee
• Participants’ distress
• Right to withdraw
• Obedience occurs when a person changes his
behaviour because he has been given a direct
command, instruction or order by another
person who he believes has authority over
• For example, a student may obey the
instructions of a teacher only because he sees
the teacher as having authority over him.
Q5a specimen: Using your knowledge of factors that have been
found to affect obedience, explain why you might obey in this
situation (6 marks)
• People are more likely to obey when they accept the power and
status of the person seen to be in authority.
– For example, we are more likely to obey a headteacher rather than a
caretaker, regardless of what each is like as an individual person.
• People are more likely to obey if they see themselves acting as
AGENTS OF A SUPERIOR AUTHORITY – this is called being in an
– We give up personal responsibility for our actions (the autonomous
state) and transfer the responsibility onto the authority figure – “I was
only following orders.)
• Authority figures often possess highly visible symbols of their
power and status – the judge’s robes and wig; the policeman’s
uniform; the general’s gold 5 stars.
– These make it much more difficult to disobey them. For example, the
guards’ uniforms in Zimbardo empowered them, while the prisoners’
dress disempowered them.
Q5b specimen: why not obey?
• Milgram (1974) variations to original study
• 2 ways of reducing obedience:
– Increase obviousness of the suffering of the learner
• remote feedback (teacher couldn’t hear or see learner): 66%
• voice feedback (victim heard but not seen): 62%
• proximity (victim 1 metre away): 40%
• touch-proximity (teachers had to force learner’s hand into the
shock plate): 30%
– Reducing authority or influence:
• experiment takes place in a run-down office instead of Yale: 48%
• orders given by telephone: 20.5%
• experimenter is not wearing white coat: 20%
• having two confederates who refused to give shocks:10%
Q6 specimen: ethical issues in
Milgram’s research (4 marks)
• Milgram exposed his participants to high levels of
distress, which is ethically unacceptable
• The PPs believed they had killed Mr Wallace
• Even when the PPs were visibly
uncomfortable, Milgram insisted they kept giving
• Having been given money, PPs may have felt
forced into following orders and felt under a lot
Q4 further: Discuss the methodological difficulties faced by
social psychologists conducting their research in a laboratory (5
• Lack of ecological validity due to unnatural setting
• Also often the nature of the task is artificial and
not relevant to real life
• Lack of mundane realism: PPs may not take
• Risk of demand characteristics: PPs may guess
aim of study and act accordingly
• Possible issues with sample: not representative
Types of conformity (Q2,Q6 further)-
• Kelman (1985) 3 types:
• Compliance (or group acceptance) – to conform in order to
gain positive reaction from group. Private beliefs don’t
• Internalisation (or genuine acceptance of group norms) –
accepting group norms because they are intrinsically
rewarding. Adopting group norms because they are
consistent with own value system.
• Identification (or group membership) – individual accepts
influence because he wants to establish or maintain a
satisfying self-defining relationship to another person or
group (self-image is linked to group identity). It occurs
regardless of actual feelings/beliefs.
Explanations to independent behaviour (Q7 specimen;
Q4 additional; Q3 further; Q7 further)
• People may use their cognitive abilities to resist obedience and
conformity. If people are reminded of their rights and responsibilities in
situations, obedience to repugnant orders decreases. People always have
the ability to ask “Why?” though they don’t always use it.
• Group solidarity often helps people resist repugnant instructions. For
example, when Milgram gave a participant a supporter (a co teacher) who
refused to follow the instructions, rates of obedience were drastically
reduced. In other words, it is not so easy to “pick a person off” as long as
he has support from at least one other person.
• Anything that increases our sense of personal responsibility will also
increase our resistance to obedience. In Milgram, when the experimenter
said, “You have no other choice, you must go on”, many participants
stopped obeying. The word ‘choice’ brought home to them that they did
have a choice and that they were responsible.
Milgram (1974) ways of reducing
• 1) Increase obviousness of the suffering of the learner
- remote feedback (teacher couldn’t hear or see learner): 66%
- voice feedback (victim heard but not seen): 62%
- proximity (victim 1 metre away): 40%
-touch-proximity (teachers had to force learner’s hand into the shock
• 2) Reducing authority or influence:
- experiment takes place in a run-down office instead of Yale: 48%
- orders given by telephone: 20.5%
-experimenter is not wearing white coat: 20%
- having two confederates who refused to give shocks:10%
Q7 specimen: Discuss research into the influence that individual
differences have on independent behaviour (12 marks)
Confidence Perrin&Spencer (1981) maths/engineering students
conformed less because of their perceived expertise
• Life experiences
• 2 PPs in Milgram’s experiment didn’t go beyond
• Personality: people who are likely to conform tend
210volts because they grew up in Nazi occupied
to be stable but not open to change
• Locus of control:
• Personality may be inheritedinnate
• Rotter (1966) internal locus of control=less
• There have been mixed results from studies that try
to link LOC with obedience and conformity.
• Miller (1975) found that those with external LOC Situational and other personal factors need to be
were more obedient but only when person giving considered too, e.g. level of education.
orders was of high status. Whereas those with
• How people are socialised can affect indep beh. M’s
internal LOC were not effected by status.
learn that power is a crucial factor when achieving
• Gender: Larsen et al (1979) found that M’s goals but F’s value interpersonal relationships.
conformed more in high status gps than F’s who Therefore not conforming has different social costs.
conformed more in peer groups. Suggests that
• Differences in social norms may make it easier for
status is more salient/important for M’s
people to resist obeying/pressure to conform.
• Cultural factors: individualist cultures are less
• Indiv Vs Coll. distinction is too broad. Culture is not
conforming than collectivist.
static as it changes over time.
• E.g. Bond & Smith (1996) looked at 133 studies
across 17 countries.
• Also Kim & Marcus (1999) compared European
Americans and Asian Americans (more conforming).
What are the implications for social change of
research into social influence
• Social influence: majority influence,
• Asch(1951) 37% conformed with majority
• BUT in USA and in ‘50s
• Perrin and Spencer (1980) repeated Asch’s study
in England in the late 1970s, and found very little
evidence of conformity
• findings may also have been influenced because
their participants were engineering students who
were trained in the importance of accurate
Implications for social change
• Smith and Bond (1993) summarised the findings
from 20 cross-cultural studies of conformity using
Asch’s 1951 design. They wished to investigate if
levels of conformity were similar across different
– average figure was about 30% for studies carried out
in several parts of the world.
– The highest figure was 58% wrong answers for Indian
teachers in Fiji;
– the lowest was 14% among Belgian students.
• Smith and Bond (1993) concluded: “Levels of
conformity in general had steadily declined since
Asch’s studies in the early 1950s.”
Implications for social change
• Hogg and Vaughan (1995) have pointed out that we are
often influenced by people who are not present at the
time we make a decision.
• They define social influence as the process whereby
attitudes, perceptions and behaviours are influenced
by the real or implied presence of other people.
• They point out that two or more people who share a
common definition and evaluation of themselves will
behave in accordance with that definition.
• For example, if I define myself as a political
Conservative much of my behaviour, including the way
I vote, will be influenced by that definition.
Implications for social change
• Moscovici et al. (1969), has investigated the conditions
under which minority influence will prevail.
• Minority influence occurs when a minority of members
in a group “rejects the established norm of the
majority of group members and induces the majority
to move to the position of the minority.”
• For example, if there is a jury split of 8-4, but the 4 in
the minority eventually get the majority to agree with
their verdict, then minority influence has prevailed.
Moscovici – conversion theory
• Conversion affects PRIVATE BELIEFS
(≠compliance) and will occur under certain
Conditions for minority to prevail
1. The minority can show that there is an
alternative, coherent point of view.
2. The minority demonstrates certainty, consistency
and confidence in their point of view.
3. The minority must try to shake the confidence of the
majority and produce doubt and uncertainty into
4. The minority must suggest, hint at and imply that
harmony within the group will be restored as soon
as the majority yields and shifts towards the
minority point of view.
Describe the aims and procedures and findings and conclusions of one study
of MINORITY INFLUENCE.
Then give two criticisms of this study
• Aims: Moscovici aimed to investigate under what conditions the minority could
influence the majority to change its responses even the responses are clearly
• Moscovici et al. (1969), in his Green Colour Slide Experiment (GCSE), predicted that
a minority could influence a majority if it consistently called a green slide blue.
• Procedures: Moscovici used group of 6 participants. Four of them (the majority)
were naïve; two of them were stooges working with the researcher. During 36
trials a slide that was clearly blue was presented on a screen. On 24 of the
trials, the stooges called out that the blue screen was green. The number of times
that naïve participants agreed with their calls was noted.
• Findings: Moscovici found that 32% of the naïve participants gave the green
response at least once.
• Conclusion: Moscovici concluded that the minority can influence the majority as
long as the minority are consistent in their responses. He also observed that
minority influence takes time to take effect while majority influence is usually
• Ethical issues. Naïve participants couldn’t give
their informed consent. As with any study
involving stooges, participants were deceived
as to the true purpose of the experiment.
• Artificiality. As with Asch’s experiments, the
experimental task was very artificial. So, the
experiment may lack ecological validity.
Definitions of abnormality + evaluation
(Q8 specimen; Q1 additional; Q4 further)
• Failure to function adequately
• Deviation from social norms
• Deviation from ideal mental health
• Statistical infrequency
Failure to function adequately
• A failure to function adequately means that a person is unable to live a
normal life, unable to experience the normal range of emotions, or engage
in the normal range of behaviour. In other words, the person is not able to
cope with life on a day-to-day basis.
• For example, a person may become so depressed that he is prepared to
label his own behaviour as ‘abnormal’, and then wish to seek treatment to
help him cope.
• One advantage of this definition is that we don’t have to label a person as
‘mentally abnormal’, which still carries a stigma in many societies. We can
focus on treating the behaviour that is hindering the person from leading
an adequately normal life, and offer treatment to encourage more
• One limitation of this definition is that apparently abnormal behaviour
may actually be helpful, function and adaptive for the individual. For
example, a person who has the obsessive-compulsive disorder of hand-
washing may find that the behaviour makes him cheerful, happy and
better able to cope with his day.
Deviation from social norms
• Social norms are the approved and expected ways of behaving in a
• In terms of social norms, abnormal behaviour can be seen as
behaviour that deviates from or violates social norms. In other
words, what is seen as socially unacceptable is regarded as
• The main difficulty with this definition is that social norms vary as
• For example, a few years ago it was not acceptable for men or boys
in the UK to wear earrings. Fashion has changed and males wearing
ear-rings is now socially acceptable.
• A more serious example is homosexuality; today being ‘gay’ is
acceptable but in the past it was included under sexual and identity
Deviation from ideal mental health
• This definition of mental abnormality suggests that there are a number of
desirable or ideal characteristics that we need to enjoy ideal mental health. These
include the ability to cope with stress, being in control of our environment, and
having a grip on reality. If any of these are missing, this may be a sign of mental
• One advantage of the Ideal Mental Health definition is that it emphasizes positive
achievements rather than failure and distress. It gives individuals targets to aim
at, which will increase their mental health.
• It is practically impossible for any individual to achieve all of the ideal
characteristics all of the time. For example, a person might not be the ‘master of
his environment’ but be happy with his situation. The absence of this criterion of
ideal mental health hardly indicates he is suffering from a mental disorder.
• Again, there is the difficulty of cultural relativism, i.e. characteristics will vary
• For example, women in the West might not regard women in Asia and Africa as
having strong sense of personal identities, which would not be the way these
women saw themselves. The very concepts of normality and abnormality depend
on the norms and values of the society in question.
• The ‘statistical infrequency’ definition of abnormality refers to
behaviour that is statistically or numerically infrequent in a given
population. Specific characteristics can be measured and plotted
on a ‘normal’ distribution curve. Anybody who deviates from the
average is classified as ‘abnormal’.
• However, this definition fails to distinguish between desirable and
• Statistically speaking, many very gifted individuals could be
classified as ‘abnormal’ using this definition. The use of the term
‘abnormal’ in this context would not be appropriate.
• One advantage of this definition is that no value judgments are
made. The assessment is objective. We measure and quantify the
behaviour to determine whether or not it is statistically infrequent
• For example, homosexuality – which was defined as a mental
illness in early versions of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of mental Disorders) – would not be judged as ‘wrong’ or
‘unacceptable’, merely less statistically frequent in most
populations than heterosexuality.
Biological approach (Q9 specimen; Q3 additional; Q1
further; Q2 further; Q3 further; Q5 further)
• MAIN ASSUMPTIONS
• Assumption 1: The Biological or Medical Model of
abnormality assumes that mental abnormality has
physiological causes. These abnormalities may be
caused by chemical malfunctions in the brain or by
• For example, too much dopamine in the brain is
linked with the mental illness called schizophrenia. It
is also clear that the eating disorder called anorexia
nervosa has a genetic component.
• Assumption 2: The Medical Model also assumes that
mental disorders can be treated in ways similar to
physical disorders. In other words, we can cure the
patient by using medical treatments. Treatments
include medication (drugs), ECT and psychosurgery.
• Advantage 1: The main advantage of the Medical Model is that it is scientific. The results of
treatment can be measured and manipulated until we have a satisfactory outcome. For
example, we can vary the dosage of Prozac until the depressed patient is able to function
• Advantage 2: A second advantage is that the patient is not labelled as mentally ill.
Unfortunately, the label of mental illness still carries a stigma in our society. It is reassuring to most
people to learn that their behaviour has an organic/medical cause that can be corrected by medical
• Limitation 1: The main limitation of the Medical Model is that it may be useful in dealing with the
symptoms of mental illness but it may not be effective in resolving the underlying causes. Mental
illness may have multiple causes, including cognitive and behavioural causes. The MM does not
take these into consideration. It is always dangerous to reduce a complex phenomenon to a single
• Limitation 2: A second limitation is that medical intervention may have undesirable side effects.
Very few drugs can be used without negative side effects. For example, prolonged use of Prozac is
associated with suicidal thoughts. Drugs may also encourage addiction and dependency similar to
nicotine addiction. In addition, techniques such as ECT and psychosurgery are
invasive, unpredictable and often irreversible.
Q9 specimen: One assumption of the biological approach to psychopathology
is that abnormality is inherited.
Explain ONE way in which psychologists have investigated the genetic basis of
abnormality (4 marks)
• Family studies - correlational
– Adoption studies
– Twin studies
– Family studies
• Identical twins share 100% genetic code
• Eg Gottesman (1991) summarised the findings
from about 40 twin studies on
schizophrenia, finding that the concordance rate
was 48% for identical twins but only 17% for
• (Another way could be gene-mapping: finding
gene involved in mental disorder)
Biological approach: exam questions
• Q1 further: Describe the use of electro-
convulsive therapy in the treatment of mental
disorders (6 marks)
• Q2 further: Describe the use of drugs to treat
psychological disorders (4 marks)
• Q3 further: Discuss the use of drugs to treat
psychological disorders (6 marks)
Discuss the behavioural approach to explaining
psychological abnormality (12 marks)
• Mental illness can be explained as a pattern of
learned maladaptive behaviour
• Focus on observable behaviour (as opposed to
physiology, emotion or thinking)
• Learning of maladaptive behaviour takes place
through classical and operant conditioning
• Mental disorders can be treated through
• There is no strong evidence to
• The basic concepts of the
learning approach can be suggest that most mental
easily empirically tested and disorders are acquired through
have been largely supported
• While symptoms can be acquired
• Behavioural therapies have
in lab conditions, this doesn’t
been successful to treat
certain maladaptive mean they are acquired in this
behaviours way in real life
• Gives psychology a scientific
• learning approach
status as it seeks to find
underestimates the complexity
general laws to explain human
behaviour using the scientific of humans(free
method will, consciousness, personality)
Explain how systematic de-sensitisation might be
carried out to overcome James’s fear of flying. (6
• James would be asked to build a hierarchy of fear
(eg going to the airport, getting on a plane, the
plane taking off...)
• The therapist would teach James relaxation
• James is asked to relax whilst visualising an item
in the hierarchy in order from the less feared to
• Through classical conditioning, James would
unlearn his fear and associate flying with a
• The final step would be to actually get on a plane
applying the learned relaxation techniques to the
once feared stimulus
The basic idea is that people with a
Wolpe (1958) developed the idea phobia are very anxious but if they
of systematic desensitisation. learn to relax, relaxation can replace
This theory helps people with the anxiety and it can cure the phobia
The principals of classical
An example of this is conditioning are used within
arachnophobia. this theory.
The participant systematically
The participant is asked to relax. Once
works through small to large
relaxed participants are asked to imagine or
pictures of spiders, they are checked
are shown pictures of spiders.
after each picture to see if they are
relaxed enough to move on to the
It could be difficult for participants next.
who imagine the situations to apply
Participants need a good
the theory to real life.
imagination, and are able to learn to
Systematic desensitisation has been proven to work
but only on small fears not agoraphobias.
• Assumption 1: The Psychodynamic Model assumes that experiences in our
earlier years can affect our emotions, attitudes and behaviour in later
years without us being aware that it is happening.
• Freud suggested that abnormal behaviour is caused by unresolved
conflicts in the Unconscious. These conflicts create anxiety, and we use
defence mechanisms such as repression and denial to protect our Ego
against this anxiety.
• However, if defence mechanisms are over-used, they can lead to disturbed
• Assumption 2: The Psychodynamic Model assumes that if repressed
memories can be recovered from the Unconscious through
psychotherapy, and if the patient experiences the emotional pain of these
repressed memories, the conflicts will be resolved and the patient will be
• Modern psychoanalysis suggests patients must also come to understand
these memories cognitively.
• Strength 1: One strength of the Psychodynamic Model is that it reminds us that experiences
in childhood can affect us throughout our lives. It accepts that everybody can suffer mental
conflicts and neuroses through no fault of their own.
• Strength 2: The model also suggests there is no need for medical intervention such as
drugs, ECT or psychotherapy, and that the patient, with the help of a psychoanalyst, can find
a cure through his own resources.
• Weakness 1: The main limitation of the Psychodynamic Model is that it cannot be
scientifically observed or tested. There is no way of demonstrating if the Unconscious
actually exists. There is no way of verifying if a repressed memory is a real or false memory
unless independent evidence is available. In other words, most of the theory must be taken
• Weakness 2: Any evidence recovered from a patient must be analysed and interpreted by a
therapist. This leaves open the possibility of serious misinterpretation or bias because two
therapists may interpret the same evidence in entirely different ways.
• Psychoanalysis is time-consuming and expensive. It may not even work: in a comprehensive
view of 7000 cases, Eysenck (1952) claimed that psychodynamic therapy does more harm
• People become ill because of negative thoughts
• Assumption 1: The Cognitive Model of Abnormality assumes that
how we think influences how we feel and how we behave. The ways
in which we process information (cognition) directly affect the ways
• The Cognitive Model suggests that disordered thinking can cause
disordered or abnormal behaviour. Disordered thinking includes
irrational assumptions and negative views about the self, the world
and the future.
• Assumption 2: The Cognitive Model assumes that cognitive
disorders have been learned and, therefore, they can be unlearned.
Thoughts can be monitored, evaluated and altered.
• Individuals can learn to challenge their irrational cognitions and
self-defeating thoughts. So the model assumes cognitive change
will lead to behavioural change.
Evaluation - Q5 further: explain ONE
strength of this approach (3 marks)
• Strength 1: A major strength of the Cognitive Model is that it concentrates in
current thought processes. It does not depend on the past history of the
client, for example, recovering repressed memories from the Unconscious. This is
an advantage because details about a person’s past are often
unclear, irrelevant, misleading and misremembered.
• Strength 2: A second strength is that Cognitive Therapies, especially when used
together with Behavioural Therapy, have a good success rate in helping clients. It
is a popular and much-used approach. It also empowers the individual to take
responsibility for his own thinking processes by monitoring, evaluating and
altering self-defeating thought processes.
• Weakness 1: Like all other approaches, psychological and medical, the Cognitive
Model rarely supplies the complete solution to abnormal behaviour by itself.
There may be medical and environmental influences affecting a person’s
behaviour. Focussing only on a person’s cognition may be too narrow an
• Weakness 2: The Cognitive Model sometimes places the blame for any disorder
unfairly on the individual – “It’s your disordered thinking, so you are at fault”. For
example, a person suffering from depression may be living in awful circumstances
where depression is a perfectly valid and rationale response to the situation. It
will hardly be surprising if he perceives the world and his future as a negative and
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