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6th edition. Social Psychology. Elliot Aronson University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy D. Wilson University of Virginia Robin M. Akert Wellesley College slides by Travis Langley Henderson State University. Chapter 15. Social Psychology and Health.

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social psychology

6th edition

Social Psychology

Elliot Aronson

University of California, Santa Cruz

Timothy D. Wilson

University of Virginia

Robin M. Akert

Wellesley College

slides by Travis Langley

Henderson State University

chapter 15
Chapter 15

Social Psychology and Health

“Twixt the optimist and the pessimist the difference is droll:

The optimist sees the doughnut

but the pessimist sees the hole.”

—McLandburgh Wilson, 1915

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

stress and human health
STRESS AND HUMAN HEALTH
  • When people undergo a major upheaval in their lives, such as losing a spouse, declaring bankruptcy, or being forced to resettle in a new culture, their chance of dying increases.
  • Soon after a major earthquake in the Los Angeles area, the number of people who died suddenly of heart attacks increased.
  • Many people experienced psychological and physical problems after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

How do these stress effects occur?

How can we learn to cope most effectively?

resilience
Resilience

Resilience

Mild, transient reactions to stressful events, followed by a quick return to normal, healthy functioning.

Although life's traumas can be painful, many people have the resources to recover quickly.

Surprisingly few people show prolonged, negative reactions to the most terrible events.

effects of negative life events
Effects of Negative Life Events

Hans Selye (1956, 1976) defined stress as the body’s physiological response to threatening events.

Stress

The negative feelings and beliefs that arise whenever people feel unable to cope with demands from their environment.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

effects of negative life events1
Effects of Negative Life Events
  • Selye focused on how the human body adapts to threats from the environment, regardless of the source, whether psychological or physiological.
  • Later researchers have examined what it is about a life event that makes it threatening.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

effects of negative life events2
Effects of Negative Life Events
  • Holmes and Rahe (1967), for example, suggested that stress is the degree to which people have to change and readjust their lives in response to an external event.
  • This definition of stress applies to happy events as well, if the event causes big changes in one’s daily routine.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

effects of negative life events3
Effects of Negative Life Events
  • Holmes and Rahe (1967) developed a measure called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale.
  • Participants get a list of life events, such as "divorce" and "trouble with boss," each of which has been assigned a certain number of points, depending on how stressful it is.
  • People check the events that have happened to them in the past year and add up the points associated with these events, to get an overall "life change" score. Several studies have found that the higher the people’s score, the worse their mental and physical health.
slide10

The College Life Stress Inventory

Instructions: Copy the "stress rating" number into the last column for any event that has happened to you in the past year, then add these scores.

perceived stress and health
Perceived Stress and Health

Measures such as the College Life Stress Inventory have problems:

  • Subjective situations have more impact on people than objective situations.
  • Individuals vary in response to different situations.
  • Most studies on stress effects use correlational findings, not experimental.
feeling in charge the importance of perceived control
Feeling in Charge: The Importance of Perceived Control

Internal-External Locus of Control

The tendency to believe that things happen because we control them versus believing that good and bad outcomes are out of our control.

Perceived Control

The belief that we can influence our environment in ways that determine whether we experience positive or negative outcomes.

slide14

College students are becoming convinced that

good and bad things in life are outside their control.

increasing perceived control in nursing homes
Increasing Perceived Control in Nursing Homes
  • Even a small boost in feelings of control can prolong life.
  • 18 months after nursing home residents were given simple control over a movie night and watering a plant, 15% had died compared to 30% not given choices.
disease control and well being
Disease, Control, and Well-Being
  • The relationship between perceived control and distress is more important to members of Western cultures than members of Asian cultures.
  • Even in Western societies, there is a danger in exaggerating the relationship between perceived control and health.
knowing you can do it self efficacy
Knowing You Can Do It: Self-Efficacy

Self-Efficacy

The belief in one’s ability to carry out specific actions that produce desired outcomes.

Believing that we have control over our lives is one thing; believing that we can actually execute the specific behaviors that will get us what we want is another.

knowing you can do it self efficacy1
Knowing You Can Do It: Self-Efficacy

People’s level of self-efficacy has been found to predict a number of important health behaviors, such as the likelihood that they will:

  • quit smoking
  • lose weight
  • lower cholesterol
  • exercise regularly

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

knowing you can do it self efficacy2
Knowing You Can Do It: Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy helps in two ways.

  • It influences our persistence and effort at a task.
  • Self-efficacy influences the way our bodies react while we are working toward our goals.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

knowing you can do it self efficacy3
Knowing You Can Do It: Self-Efficacy

In short, self-efficacy operates as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

The more you believe that you can accomplish something, such as quitting smoking, the greater the likelihood that you will.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

explaining negative events learned helplessness
Explaining Negative Events: Learned Helplessness

Learned Helplessness

The state of pessimism that results from attributing a negative event to stable, internal, and global factors.

Stable Attribution

The belief that an event is caused by factors that will not change over time (e.g., your intelligence), as opposed to factors that will change over time (e.g., your effort).

explaining negative events learned helplessness1
Explaining Negative Events: Learned Helplessness

Learned Helplessness

The state of pessimism that results from attributing a negative event to stable, internal, and global factors.

Internal Attribution

The belief that an event is caused by things about you (e.g., your own ability or effort), as opposed to factors that are external to you (e.g., the difficulty of a test).

explaining negative events learned helplessness2
Explaining Negative Events: Learned Helplessness

Learned Helplessness

The state of pessimism that results from attributing a negative event to stable, internal, and global factors.

Global Attribution

The belief that an event is caused by factors that apply in a many situations (e.g., your intelligence,) rather than specific factors that apply in only a limited number of situations (e.g., your musical ability).

slide29
Coping Styles

The ways in which people react to threatening events.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

slide30
Fight-or-Flight Response

Responding to stress by either attacking the source of the stress or fleeing from it.

Tend-and-Befriend Response

Responding to stress with nurturant activities designed to protect oneself and one’s offspring (tending) and creating social networks that provide protection from threats (befriending).

gender differences in coping with stress
Gender Differences inCoping with Stress

Shelley Taylor and her colleagues (2000) pointed out a little-known fact about research on the fight-or-flight syndrome: Most of it has been done on males.

Tending has a number of benefits for a mother and her child (e.g., a quiet child is less likely to be noticed by predators, and nurturing behavior leads to lower stress and improved immune functioning in mammals).

Befriending involves the creation of close ties with other members of the species, which also confers a number of advantages.

social support getting help from others
Social Support: Getting Help from Others

Social Support

The perception that others are responsive and receptive to one’s needs.

People who have someone to lean on deal better with life’s problems and show improved health.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social support getting help from others1
Social Support: Getting Help from Others

People who live in cultures that stress interdependence and collectivism suffer less from stress-related diseases than people who live in cultures that stress individualism, possibly because it is easier for people in collectivist cultures to obtain social support.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

social support getting help from others2
Social Support: Getting Help from Others

Interestingly, it is not just receiving social support but giving it that is beneficial: A recent study of people 65 and over found that those who gave support to others, such as helping family members with child care or doing errands for a neighbor, lived longer than people who did not.

social support getting help from others3
Social Support: Getting Help from Others

According to the buffering hypothesis, we need social support only when we are under stress.

  • Social support can help us interpret an event as less stressful than we otherwise would.
  • Even if we do interpret an event as stressful, social support can help us cope.
personality and coping styles
Personality and Coping Styles
  • Evidence indicates optimistic people react better to stress and are generally healthier than pessimists.
  • Most people feel bad events are less likely to happen to them than to other people.
  • Unrealistic optimism, however, can leave people unprepared for problems.
personality and coping styles1
Personality and Coping Styles

Type A Personality

The type of person who is typically competitive, impatient, hostile, and control-oriented, when confronting a challenge.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

personality and coping styles2
Personality and Coping Styles

Type B Personality

The type of person who is typically patient, relaxed, and noncompetitive when confronting a challenge .

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

personality and coping styles3
Personality and Coping Styles

Type A people’s hard-driving, competitive approach to life pays off in some respects:

  • They tend to get good grades in college and to be successful in their careers.

However, this success comes with some costs.

  • Type A individuals spend relatively little time on nonwork activities and have more trouble in balancing their work and family lives.
  • Further, numerous studies show that Type A individuals are more prone than Type B people to developing coronary heart disease.
personality and coping styles4
Personality and Coping Styles

Subsequent studies have tried to narrow down what it is about the Type A personality that is most related to heart disease.

The most likely culprit is hostility.

Competitiveness and a fast-paced life might not be so bad by themselves, but for a person who is chronically hostile, they increase the risk for coronary disease.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

personality and coping styles5
Personality and Coping Styles

You are more likely to be Type A if

  • You are male,
  • Your parents are Type A, and
  • You live in an urban rather than a rural area.

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

personality and coping styles6
Personality and Coping Styles

There is a higher rate of coronary disease in many Western cultures than in many Asian cultures, such as Japan.

  • In Western cultures, where individualism and competitiveness are prized, personality types more like Type A might be encouraged.
  • People who live in cultures that stress collectivism might have more support from other people when they experience stress, and as we have seen, such social support is a valuable way of making stress more manageable.
opening up making sense of traumatic events
Opening Up: Making Sense of Traumatic Events
  • Opening up about traumatic events can create more stress in the short turn.
  • It can help alleviate some stress in the long run.
  • On the other hand, it can also make stressful events more memorable in cases in which they would have been generally forgotten.
opening up making sense of traumatic events1
Opening Up: Making Sense of Traumatic Events
  • Trying to suppress negative thoughts can lead to a preoccupation with those very thoughts, because the act of trying not to think about them can actually make us think about them more.
  • Writing about or confiding in others about a traumatic event may help people gain a better understanding of the event and thus move forward with life.
preventable health problems
Preventable Health Problems

Many serious health problems are preventable, if people adopted different habits and avoided risky behaviors.

For example, more than 40 million people are currently infected with the HIV virus, and in 2004, more than three million people died of AIDS.

As seen in the next slide, most cases are in Sub-Saharan Africa, though no continent is free of the disease.

slide47

Most of these cases could have been avoided if people had used condoms during sexual intercourse, yet many people are not taking precautions they should.

preventable health problems1
Preventable Health Problems

People could improve their health behaviors in many other areas as well, such as:

  • alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • overeating

Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.

preventable health problems2
Preventable Health Problems

Binge drinkers are more likely to have a number of life-threatening problems:

  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • meningitis
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • car accidents
  • drowning
  • domestic violence
social psychological interventions targeting safer sex
Social Psychological Interventions: Targeting Safer Sex

A review of the more than 350 interventions designed to promote safer sex confirmed that it works to increase people's self-efficacy about condom use.

Other approaches work as well, such as interventions based on the theory of planned behavior, which try to increase:

(a) desirability of condom use

(b) perceived normative pressures to use condoms

(c) perceptions that condom use is controllable

social psychological interventions targeting safer sex1
Social Psychological Interventions: Targeting Safer Sex

Another type of intervention that has been successful is one that frames the message in terms of gains (e.g., “If you use condoms, you can stay healthy and avoid sexually transmitted diseases”) instead of losses (e.g., “If you don’t use condoms, you could get AIDS”).

social psychological interventions targeting safer sex2
Social Psychological Interventions: Targeting Safer Sex
  • When trying to get people to behave in positive ways that will prevent disease, it is best to use a “gain frame,” emphasizing what they have to gain by engaging in these behaviors.
  • When trying to get people to detect the presence of a disease, it is best to use a “loss frame,” emphasizing what they have to lose by avoiding this behavior.
social psychology1

6th edition

Social Psychology

Elliot Aronson

University of California, Santa Cruz

Timothy D. Wilson

University of Virginia

Robin M. Akert

Wellesley College

slides by Travis Langley

Henderson State University