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Time pressure and learning

Time pressure and learning

What are the effects of time pressure (salient vs. non-salient) and learning? Salient time pressure is basically when you have a countdown timer in front of you. Non salient time pressure would be when you have a timer going off after some preordained times (making a beep). Would the salient time pressure induce a person to do something more efficiently? Or would it be a distraction?

Sophie Leroy has shown that switching tasks incurs a cost. In particular, there is attentional residue from the previous task. Time pressure, she shows, may help with this. It provides closure to a task. But what are the effects of time pressure on learning? I guess testing is a type of time pressure activity that is one of the best ways to learn.

References

W Leroy, S. (2009). Why is it so hard to do my work? The challenge of attention residue when switching between work tasks. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. Vol. 109. pp 168-181.


This is a wide open question - I'm not sure that you can say there is an "effect on learning" due to time pressure. It's going to depend on a lot of factors, including the learning context, the learner, the amount of time they have to complete the task, etc. Ultimately, all learning is time-limited, so you need to break this down into different lengths of time.

There are several theories that may speak about it. One is cognitive load theory (Paas & Van Merriënboer, 1994). This theory is based on the limitations of working memory, where the "processing" of learning takes place. Basically, there isintrinsic loadrequired to learn a certain type of material, and this is a characteristic of the material to be learned. There is alsoextraneous loadduring learning, which occurs when the learner must divert attention to tasks not directly relevant to the learning task (e.g. checking a clock, computing how much time is left, etc).

Based on CLT, one would expect a decrease in performance from having a clock sitting in front of the learner. But again, I suspect that the amount of time vs. the time required will be a strong mediating factor.

Edit

I just skimmed the article you cited. It seems like there are a lot more relevant sources there you could track down. Why don't you do that and come back with what you find?

References

  • Paas, F. G., & Van Merriënboer, J. J. (1994). Instructional control of cognitive load in the training of complex cognitive tasks. Educational Psychology Review,6(4), 351-371

Study 1

In the first study, undergraduate psychology studied two carefully matched topics, one in a face-to-face class and the other online, with the order counterbalanced between two groups. We compared marks on the two topics, and examined the students' comments on their experience of completing the activities, one in-class and one online.

Methods

Participants

Participants were 67 third-year (advanced level) undergraduate students at an Australian university, 13 male and 54 female. Their mean age was 24 years (SD 7.1 years), and all spoke English as a first language. The students took part in the study as part of their unit on developmental psychology, but gave consent for their data also to be used for research purposes. All were familiar and confident with the web-based platform used for delivering the online activities. The study received approval from the university's Human Research Ethics Committee.

Materials and Procedure

Participants completed written exercises, a class discussion, and a written test (worth 5% of their overall mark) on two academic topics, one week apart. The first topic concerned children's stages of cognitive development, and the second, children's stages of drawing development. Three classes of students participated. The classes were allocated to two groups (as described in the next paragraph), with the larger class allocated to Group 1 (n = 27), and the two smaller classes to Group 2 (n = 40). This meant that the two groups differed in size. However, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of age [M = 23.2 years (SD 6.2) and M = 26.0 years (SD 8.2), respectively], sex distribution (80 and 82% female), or overall performance in this unit [M = 62.4% (SD 11.6%) and M = 65.0% (SD 10.0%)], all ps > 0.1.

In Week 1, both groups of participants completed the face-to-face activities in their weekly practical class. Group 1 students discussed their recent experience of observing a child completing several tasks of conservation of matter (e.g., conservation of liquid, conservation of number, Piaget, 1954). The previous week, each student had individually administered these tasks to a 5- to 12-year-old child of their acquaintance. The few students who did not know a child to visit had viewed multiple online videos of children being administered these tasks and chosen the one on which they would like to answer the test questions. There were no differences in performance between these two sets of students. Group 2 students were given a series of self-portraits drawn by children aged 2� years, and a copy of Lowenfeld's (1939) stages of drawing development.

In class, the tutor initiated the discussion with more general questions, for example (for conservation, Group 1): “What did you find most difficult about giving the task, and how did you overcome this difficulty?,” and (for drawing, Group 2) 𠇍o you think it would be easy or difficult to persuade a child of this age to produce a self-portrait? Do you think it would be easier with older or younger children?.” The questions later narrowed in on theory, with the tutor asking the students in Group 1 to discuss which cognitive stage they thought the child was in (in terms of Piaget's stage model of cognitive development, e.g., pre-operations or concrete operations), and how the wording of the adult's instructions could influence the child's performance. In Group 2, the tutor asked the students to decide which developmental stage each self-portrait seemed to represent (e.g., pre-schematic drawing, schematic drawing), and why. They also talked about the motor skills required for drawing. For both groups, discussions took place first in small groups and then as a whole class, over a 1-h period, with the questions provided by the tutor but the discussion structured by the students themselves. At the end of the class, both groups were then given a half-hour, in-class, written test on the topic that they had just studied (i.e., development of conservation or drawing):

1. Participants answered six short-answer questions structured as similarly as possible for the two topics (e.g., Conservation: Based on your observation, which Piagetian stage do you think this child is in, and why? Drawing: Based on the drawing, which of Lowenfeld's stages do you think this child is in, and why?)

2. Participants rated their preference for completing these activities face-to-face vs. online, on a five-point scale ranging from 1 (“much prefer to do in class”) to 5 (“much prefer to do online”), and were asked to identify “one thing that was good about doing the activities in class, not online,” and “one thing that would have been good about doing the activities online, not in class.”

During the following week (Week 2), both groups of participants completed the online activities at a time of their own choosing, for the topic that they had not covered in the previous week. Group 1 scrolled through the series of children's self-portraits, presented in PDF form, and were provided with an online copy of Lowenfeld's (1939) stages of drawing development. Group 2 were asked to think about the conservation tasks they had observed.

Both groups were asked to consider the same questions that had been considered in the face-to-face classes as described above, for drawing development (Group 1) and for cognitive development (Group 2). Students were then instructed to go to the online discussion board. They did not have to transcribe their answers for all of the questions that they had considered, but were asked to contribute their answers to the questions that they “had found most interesting,” or to explain any questions that they “had found particularly difficult, and why.” Students were also asked to read others' contributions, and to respond to them, “linking their experiences and answers with yours if you can.”

The opportunity to reflect on the materials and questions, and to contribute to the online discussion, was available for 5 days, with each participant contributing at least once. Each participant contributed to the discussion, as required (with at least one discussion post that covered several questions). The day after the online discussion board was closed, the online version of the test was made available, with the same questions as in the face-to-face version:

1. Participants responded in writing to the same six short-answer questions answered in class the week before.

2. Participants rated their preference for completing these activities face-to-face or online, and were asked to identify “one thing that was good about doing the activities online, not in class,” and “one thing that would have been good about doing the activities in class, not online.”

Students had 4 days in which to do the test, which was open for 30 min once it was begun. It is possible that the students completing the test online could have accessed extra information (from the internet) than the students completing the test in class (without internet access). However, trying to find further information during the limited time available for writing the test answers would not have been very helpful. The questions were focused on discussing the conservation or drawing performance of “their” child, and all students (in class and online) had access to a copy of Lowenfeld's stages, and all had been aware that they would need to revise the basics of Piaget's cognitive stage theory for the test.

In summary, both groups completed the same activities, discussion and tests, but in Week 1 both groups did so in face-to-face classes (on cognitive development for Group 1 and on drawing development for Group 2) and in Week 2 both groups did so online (on drawing development for Group 2 and on cognitive development for Group 1).

Results and Discussion

Class marks and preferences

Participants' marks on the two tests, as well as their stated preferences for studying each topic face-to-face or online, were calculated. Table 1 shows the means and standard deviations on each of these factors, for participants in the two groups. As seen in the table, students showed an overall preference for studying topics face-to-face rather than online, with their average preferences of around 2 hovering much closer to the “much prefer to do in class” end of the 5-point scale than the “much prefer to do online” end of the scale.

Table 1. Study 1: Mean Marks and Modality Preferences across Task and Modality.

A series of repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVAs) showed that there were no significant differences between the groups on any of the comparisons made. The two groups did not differ significantly in the marks they gained, in terms of either the topic they were tested on [F(1, 65) = 0.67, p = 0.42, partial η 2 = 0.01] or modality in which this test was presented [F(1, 65) = 0.31, p = 0.58, partial η 2 = 0.01]. Nor did they differ significantly in their modality preference, in terms of either the topic about which they were asked [F(1, 65) = 0.42, p = 0.52, partial η 2 = 0.01] or the modality in which they were asked it [F(1, 65) = 0.05, p = 0.82, partial η 2 = 0.001]. We followed up this significant group difference in modality preference by also considering whether there was a significant difference in terms of the number of students who (much) preferred to do the tasks in class and those who (much) preferred to do them online/did not mind either way. A chi-squared analysis confirmed that significantly more students preferred to complete the tasks in class (n = 47) than online/didn't mind (n = 20), χ 2 (1) = 10.89, p < 0.001.

Pearson correlations were calculated to see if there was any association between participants' academic performance and their preference for learning face-to-face vs. online. We first considered participants' scores on the two topic-specific tests and their reported modality preference for each topic. The correlations were not significant for either the topic done online (r =𢄠.02, p = 0.85), or the topic done in class (r = 0.01, p = 0.95). This suggests that students did not simply prefer a modality because they felt they had performed better on the task in that modality, and nor did they perform better in the modality that they already preferred. We then looked at participants' final mark on this entire academic unit (M = 64.0%, SD = 10.7%), and calculated the correlation between this mark and their modality preference averaged over the face-to-face and online tasks (M = 2.09, SD = 0.92). The correlation was not significant (r = 𢄠.11, p = 0.40), suggesting no consistent relationship between overall academic performance and preference for learning online or in class. Finally, we confirmed that there was no significant correlation between participant age and modality preference (r = 0.01, p = 0.97), nor between age and overall marks (r = 0.05, p = 0.69).

Qualitative comments

We also asked participants to note one thing that they liked better about completing the activities (exercises, discussion, and test) face-to-face, and one thing about what they liked better about completing them online. Participants provided their own freeform answers, which we then subjected to thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006). We chose thematic analysis rather than a more specific approach such as Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) or Discourse Analysis, as we wished to identify repeated patterns of meaning, or themes, in the responses, but without attaching our analysis to any pre-existing theoretical framework. We followed Braun and Clarke's (2006) six phases to identify the themes as they emerged from an analysis of students' responses, rather than pre-existing themes being imposed on a grouping of the responses. Specifically, we (1) familiarized ourselves with the scope and nature of the students' responses to both the “in-class” and “online” questions, and (2) generated initial codes on the basis of a subset of 25 participants' responses, by identifying the overall point made in each response with a 2- to 4-word summary code, which we (3) collated into tentative themes and modified as we reviewed another 25 responses. These potential themes were then (4) reviewed to check how they fitted with the entire data set, and (5) the themes were refined into an exhaustive set of final themes for all responses, which were named and clearly defined. Finally, (6) the most representative example for each theme was selected, and the final analysis related back to the research questions. Although participants had been asked to provide only one reason for liking something about each modality, many provided two or even more reasons. We included the first one or two reasons given in our thematic analysis. Table 2 shows the proportion of responses that were categorized into each them, for face-to-face and online learning, for the whole sample, n = 67.

Table 2. Study 1: Proportion of Responses per Theme, for Face-to-Face and Online Learning.

In justifying their modality preferences about completing the activities face-to-face, the 67 participants provided 102 reasons overall. The themes that emerged were as follows:

More engagement: This was the theme with the most responses, with students noting that they felt more engaged when the activities were completed in the social environment of a classroom setting, rather than online. Most also commented that they felt this greater engagement led to more meaningful discussion, for example, I think that discussion face to face really allows you to think more deeply and bounce ideas of other people. Writing it online, felt like your answers had to be more formal and exact, whereas in class discussion I felt you could really bounce more possible ideas off each other before coming to a conclusion.

Immediate feedback: The next most common theme was that participants appreciated the fact that each comment they made in class immediately elicited a related comment from a peer, or a clarification from the tutor in real time, rather than having to wait hours for a response to their particular comment online. An illustrative example is, You are able to directly discuss with tutor and peers and therefore directly receive feedback for your questions and others questions.

Overall, 80% of the first reasons (and 37% of second reasons) that participants gave to illustrate the benefits of in-class activities fitted these themes of “more engagement” and “immediate feedback.” Some of remaining responses referred to more practical considerations:

No wish to read comments: Some students noted that they had no wish to read the comments of their classmates online, although they were happy to listen to and interact with their classmates in real life.

Easier to review paper documents: Others noted it was easier to review material in class, because they could spread out the pages in front of them on a table rather than scrolling through on screen. The other remaining responses fitted the more pedagogically motivated themes that in-class interaction provided:

Deeper understanding and a

Better flow of argument.

When explaining their preferred modality for online activities, the 67 participants provided 78 reasons, rather fewer than the 102 that they had given about face-to-face classes.

Convenience: The most common theme was a practical one the greater convenience of being able to complete the online activities in their own time (within the given week), and/or at any location, as in the comment, Can do it at anytime, and anywhere.

Wider contributions: The second most common theme was that the online discussion allowed contributions from a greater range of people than a class discussion, in which shyer students sometimes stayed quiet in the presence of their more outspoken peers, for example, Discussion not dominated by loud, confident people.

More detailed responses: Students also noted that the online discussion forum encouraged more detailed responses than in-class discussion (where conversational turns were typically shorter, but more frequent, than in writing), as in the response, I thought it was good to be able to read everyone's experiences with full details, as time restraints in class don't allow for each individual to thoroughly go through their task.

Together, 84% of first reasons (and 69% of second reasons) fitted these three themes. The remaining responses were categorized into smaller themes specifically:

More time to think: Some students noted that providing responses online gave them more time to consider their answers than having to speak spontaneously in class.

Faster to type: It was noted that it was faster to provide answers to the test when it was typed online than handwritten in the classroom.

Less judgment: Finally, some students felt less judged by their tutor and peers when answers could be written than spoken.

Overall, many of the reasons that students gave for each modality differed from those seen in previous literature, as is taken up again in the General Discussion.


Comments

I work in a Las Vegas casino as a manager. I work with an average of 15 employees a day plus my director and
other department heads.. I am constantly being pulled in multiple directions being asked to do a variety of duties, along with dealing with our customers and trying to keep them happy, I’m finding the stress has been almost unbearable at times and has made me make incorrect decisions more and more often.

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When Peer Pressure Is a Good Thing

I n every classroom, there is a kind of tipping point when the unmotivated students either get pulled along by the high achievers, or the unmotivated students hold the high achievers back.

I see this all the time teaching English at Coachella Valley High School in Southern California&rsquos Inland Empire. Most of my students come from low-income households, have had to learn English as a second language, and hope to be the first in their families to go to college. They&rsquove been told since they were in elementary school that higher education is their ticket to a better life, and many have come to believe this.

But high school is a big place, full of distractions. For many, school becomes about socializing, partying and striving to fit in. Other students are stressed by balancing school with a relationship, by responsibilities at home, or by a part-time job. Added to these pressures is the anxiety caused by the daunting cost of higher education. As a result of all these pressures&mdashand low expectations&mdashtoo few students are truly prepared for college by the time they graduate.

One way to keep our students focused on college is to make them aware of Advanced Placement courses as early as possible. Currently, we offer 14 AP courses at Coachella Valley High, from calculus to Spanish literature. While I know that our very highest achievers are going to take these courses and succeed, I believe that for the majority of students, the cultural mindset of their classmates is just as important as the educator in the front of the classroom. The sooner that students with college ambitions take such courses, the better they&rsquoll be prepared for the rigors of college. And the more we can grow the AP program at our school, the more students will share goals and values&mdashand this high-achieving mindset.

So this last November we formed the Coachella Valley High School Advanced Placement Club to support AP and future AP students and encourage more people to take these classes. How we would do this, I wasn&rsquot quite sure at first, but I agreed to be the advisor anyway. Maybe we could use my room as a study hall after school. Maybe club members would want to raise money for college field trips. Maybe we could all get T-shirts.

Mostly seniors and juniors&mdashalong with a few sophomores&mdashpacked into my classroom after school for our first meeting. We elected officers, approved our constitution, and formed our first committees: fundraising, T-shirts, and freshman awareness. We decided to meet on a weekly basis and then adjourned so that the committees could meet separately to discuss ideas and plans.

And then this wonderful thing happened. About 20 of the students who&rsquod stayed for the freshman awareness committee gathered in a rough circle of chairs. Itcelia, a senior in my AP English literature class and our newly elected vice president, asked, &ldquoWhat do you know now that you wish someone had told you as a freshman?&rdquo

And then they all started sharing. I sat at my desk in the back of the room and just listened. They discussed the benefits of honors and AP classes, the importance of homework and time management, and the need to balance academics with activities, clubs, sports, community service, and so on. It was amazing. Here was a cross section of our school&rsquos highest achievers made up of a diversity of personality types and interests&mdashnot just the &ldquonerd herd&rdquo but the drama kids, the artists, the athletes, the cheerleaders, the class officers, and students from career academies&mdashbuilding a master plan for high school success.

They decided to bring that plan to the freshmen themselves. By the next meeting, Itcelia had contacted an administrator and gotten freshman teachers&rsquo permission to give presentations in their classrooms. She and the other freshman awareness committee members created a PowerPoint slideshow. Club members volunteered to present based on which of their own classes they could afford to miss.

After the presentations, the students gathered to debrief. Some of them had spoken to the freshmen about resisting the pressure to dumb down in order to stay popular, or to get someone to like you. Itcelia was thrilled that during one of her presentations a freshman girl had shared that she liked a boy until she found out he didn&rsquot know the difference between your and you&rsquore. &ldquoSmart is the new sexy,&rdquo someone in the group said, defining the moment and themselves.

Surprisingly, one of the groups met resistance from a teacher who thought they were being unrealistic in encouraging students to take as many AP classes as possible. But Itcelia, presently enrolled in four AP classes, active in several clubs and community service projects, and in rehearsals for the school&rsquos production of Grease, passionately disagreed. She remembered that when she was a freshman, some upperclassmen tried to discourage her from taking AP classes, saying they were too demanding and wouldn&rsquot leave room for anything else. &ldquoBut that just isn&rsquot true,&rdquo she said. &ldquoIt&rsquos all about setting priorities and managing your time.&rdquo

The success of the presentations inspired me to create a club website with links to information on AP courses, colleges, careers, admission tests, financial aid, and scholarships.

The site also includes a weekly blog featuring essays from teachers, counselors, alumni, community professionals, and fellow students. Many wrote about their own paths to college and the fears and obstacles they had to overcome, and others about the importance of reading or the value of stories in the community. One student wrote about the need for academic rivalries and another published a poem on immigration. We gave away T-shirts that display our blog address alongside inspirational quotes from authors and civil rights leaders or witty slogans like, &ldquoYou had me at your proper use of you&rsquore.&rdquo We got more freshmen to join the club, and at meetings we had great discussions that often began with questions for seniors from underclassmen, particularly juniors looking ahead at their last year of high school.

This next year, with new seniors and a clearer sense of direction, we will build on these successes. We want to increase membership, raise money for college field trips, and encourage more students to interact with and write for our blog.

High school peer pressure can work in positive as well as negative ways, and individual success is often the result of a community of support. With the help of student leaders like Itcelia, who, by the way, graduated as class salutatorian and will attend UC Berkeley in the fall, I believe we can continue to tip the scales of academic motivation in the right direction.

Philip Hoy is a high school English teacher by day and short-story author, novelist, and blogger by night. When he is not creating lesson plans or grading essays, he is writing. He lives in Southern California with his wife Magdalena, also a teacher. This article was written for Zócalo Public Square and is supported by a grant from the California Wellness Foundation


Boreout

Let’s start on the left in the first zone with low pressure and low performance. Long-term, this low pressure state can result in what Phillipe Rothlin and Peter Werder call “boreout”. Think the opposite of burnout in terms of workload pressure, but with the same debilitating effects.

Boreout can occur when someone is without motivating forces and has no reason to do anything. Imagine just drifting aimlessly, completely bored. It can be fun doing nothing for a while. But sitting watching TV in your pyjamas all day every day is not good for your performance and not good for your health.

Don’t confuse boreout with laziness. Boreout is being perpetually bored because of a lack of challenge.

Everyone needs a minimum amount of pressure to motivate themselves. If a task is too easy, or there are no targets, deadlines or expectations to meet, then performance is usually poor. We rarely get much done unless we have a goal. Either somebody sets our goals for us or we create them ourselves.

Human beings need a sense of purpose in life, just like any other animal does. Ever seen a bored lion pacing back and forth in a zoo? It’s not a healthy state to be in having nothing to do all day long.

For hundreds of thousands of years human survival has been based upon hunting and gathering food, finding shelter, seeking a mate and raising a family. That powerful sense of purpose is hard wired into our genetics. We can’t feel good unless we have a purposeful goal.

You may sometimes find yourself in the boreout zone if your work is repetitive, easy and mundane with little opportunity for social interaction. Even varied work that you see as having little value can lead to boreout.

Boreout sometimes occurs in those who retire. Leaving work without firm plans for the future, or without creating any new motivating forces, goals or deadlines can be a recipe for long-term boredom.

Gardening, volunteering, hobbies, pastimes and helping out with the family can all provide a much-needed sense of purpose. If retirees don’t go after positive pressures, they often end up going back to work. This is not for financial reasons, but to get some structure and sense of purpose back into their lives.

According to a study by the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, nearly 50% of all retirees in the US continue to work part time, or return to work fully, after they have retired.

Remember, everyone is unique. Personality traits, skill levels, experience and particular preferences for certain types of work mean it’s impossible to predict which situations will cause boreout in everyone. So you must look for the signs.

Signs of boreout

Not only do we not perform well with insufficient pressure, the resultant tedium can also be very stressful. The signs of boreout include:

  • demotivation
  • disengagement
  • cynicism
  • lethargy
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • depression

The boreout zone is red for a reason. Spending too long in that zone is not a good place to be. Long-term boredom can be very stressful, even though there’s negligible pressure.

What to do about boreout

Managers need to provide a level of challenge that moves team members out of the boreout zone. If colleagues appear to be languishing, consider how you can help them progress, take on new skills and feel more challenged. What can you do to make the job more interesting and rewarding? Can their role become more varied, perhaps? Or could you set challenges that will motivate them?


Where Does Pressure Come From?

There are two kinds of pressure &ndash internal and external.

Internal pressures stem from pushing yourself too hard, or from worrying about your ability to meet others' expectations of you and those that you have of yourself. You might drive yourself to be your company's number one salesperson, for example, or doubt your ability to perform at a speaking engagement.

External pressures come from the circumstances or the people around you &ndash a micromanager, for example, making you work in a certain way, or giving you a hefty workload that exceeds your capacity to deal with it.

Some external pressures have little connection with your job, but the way you react to them can negatively impact how you work. A long commute, illness, financial difficulties, family responsibilities, bereavements, or a dangerous workplace can all weigh heavily on you and affect how you behave.

In extreme cases, you may even feel pressured to take risks, to act against your values, or to take part in illegal activities, such as "massaging" figures to reduce your organization's tax bill. Read our article, When to Speak Up , for advice on how best to handle these dangerous situations.


Mind & Body Articles & More

Daniela Kaufer is an associate professor at UC Berkeley who studies the biology of stress, examining at the molecular level how the brain responds to anxiety and traumatic events. Her recent findings reveal the difference between good stress and bad stress, as well as pointers for how to respond to stressful events in a healthy way. She was interviewed by health writer Peter Jaret for the Berkeley Wellness newsletter, where this Q&A originally appeared.

Peter Jaret: Most of us think of stress as a bad thing. Can stress be good for you?

Daniela Kaufer in the lab. © Peg Skorpinski, UC Berkeley

Daniela Kaufer: The prevailing idea in our culture is that stress is bad. People complain about being stressed out. But we’re learning that moderate amounts of stress have powerful benefits. The stress response is designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it. Our research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory.

PJ: How do you measure the effects of stress?

DK: In our work, we study the effects of stress on rats, and we look specifically at the growth of stem cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in the stress response, and it’s also very important for learning and memory. We’ve found that when rats are exposed to moderate stress for a short time—being immobilized for a few hours, for instance—stem cell growth is stimulated, and those cells go on to form neurons, or brain cells. A couple of weeks later, tests show improvements in learning and memory. We’ve shown that the specific cells generated during stress have become activated. But when the animals are exposed to chronic or intense stress—being immobilized for days at a time, for example, or being immobilized and then exposed to the smell of a predator—stem cell growth is suppressed and fewer brain cells are generated.

PJ: What about people? Can manageable amounts of stress boost brain power?

DK: We think the same thing happens in people. Manageable stress increases alertness and performance. And by encouraging the growth of stem cells that become brain cells, stress improves memory. The increase in stem cells and neuron generation makes sense from an adaptive point of view. If an animal encounters a predator and manages to escape, it’s important to remember where and when that encounter happened, to avoid it in the future. If you’re walking down an alley and somebody threatens you, it’s important to remember exactly where you were in order to avoid that alley in the future. The brain is constantly responding to stress. Extreme or chronic stress can have a negative effect. But moderate and short-lived stress—like an upcoming exam or preparing to deliver a speech in public—improves cognitive performance and memory.

PJ: When does too much stress become harmful?

DK: Individuals vary widely in how they respond to stress. The same stressor may be manageable for one person and overwhelming for another, depending in part on perception. People who feel resilient and confident that they can manage stress are much less likely to be overwhelmed by it—and more likely to have a healthy response—than people who think of stress as bad. Another factor is control. Stress is much less likely to be harmful if people have some control over the situation. A tight deadline is stressful but manageable if you have the ability to meet it. If not, if you feel helpless, the stress is more likely to be harmful. Early life experiences also shape how people respond to stress. If you have a lot of stress in your early life, you may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress. Research by Rachel Yehuda, a scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York, has shown that Holocaust survivors have increased levels of stress hormones. Her most recent research shows that even offspring of Holocaust survivors have higher stress hormone levels.

PJ: Your work focuses on the effects of stress on the brain. Does stress affect other systems of the body?

DK: Chronic stress can constrict blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that too much stress can suppress the immune system. Ours and other research has shown that chronic stress also reduces fertility in animals. In female mice, for instance, stress lowers libido, reduces fertility, and increases the risk of miscarriage. We also know that extreme stress can lead to post traumatic stress disorder, which is an area I’m very interested in. As I’ve said, it’s important to remember threats. But it’s also important to be able to forget them as new experiences come along. Let’s say a man with a long white beard frightens you as a child. It’s healthy to begin to forget that memory as you come to see that men with long white beards aren’t inherently dangerous. The problem with post traumatic stress disorder is that people can’t forget. They can’t let traumatic memories go. The question is why. And we don’t have an answer yet.

More on Stress

Robert Sapolsky explores the psychology of stress.

Jeremy Adam Smith explains the relationship between stress and empathy.

PJ: Can you offer any helpful strategies to ensure that stress is beneficial rather than harmful?

DK: If you tend to have a positive attitude—a self-confident sense that you can get through a rough period—you’re more likely to have a healthy response than if you perceive stress as catastrophic. Another powerful factor is social support. If you have friends and family you can turn to during a stressful period, you’re more likely to handle the stress well. Social support buffers stress. That’s something most of us know intuitively. Now we’re beginning to understand it biologically. Researchers have identified a hormone called oxytocin that reduces the stress response. According to psychologist Kelly McGonigal, oxytocin is enhanced by social contact and support.

Another powerful buffer for stress is physical exercise. We see the evidence in animal studies. Rodents that are allowed to run are more likely to create new brain cells in response to stress than sedentary animals. I think the same thing may work for people. People who are active respond better when stress comes along than people who are inactive. Physical activity after a stressful experience also helps moderate the effects of stress.

PJ: What do you do when your own life gets stressful?

DK: I’m not the best role model. I’ll find myself writing grant proposals at one in the morning, totally stressed out. I know what I should do. Before I became a scientist, I trained as a yoga instructor. I know I should take a yoga break. But I guess it helps to know from my research that stress can be beneficial, so at least I have a positive attitude. And that plays a big role in helping people handle stress in a healthy way.

Greater Good wants to know: Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?
About the Author

Peter Jaret

Peter Jaret is the author of several health-related books, including In Self-Defense: The Human Immune System, Nurse: A World of Care, and Impact: On the Frontlines of Public Health. A frequent contributor to National Geographic, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Health magazine, More, AARP Bulletin, and dozens of other periodicals, Jaret is the recipient of an American Medical Association award for journalism and two James Beard awards. He lives in Petaluma, California.


Augmentation in contingency learning under time pressure

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Miguel A. Vadillo, Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de Deusto, Apartado 1, 48080 Bilbao, Spain (e-mail: [email protected] ).Search for more papers by this author

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Miguel A. Vadillo, Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de Deusto, Apartado 1, 48080 Bilbao, Spain (e-mail: [email protected] ).Search for more papers by this author

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

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Abstract

Recent research suggests that cue competition effects in human contingency learning, such as blocking, are due to higher-order cognitive processes. Moreover, some experimental reports suggest that the effect opposite to blocking, augmentation, could occur in experimental preparations that preclude the intervention of reasoning mechanisms. In the present research, we tested this hypothesis by investigating cue interaction effects in an experimental task in which participants had to enter their responses under time pressure. The results show that under these conditions, augmentation, instead of blocking, is observed.


PSYCH 424 blog

A universal problem grasping the lives of many victims worldwide is addiction. Hiding itself in a variety of different substances and states from drugs and alcohol to food, it takes over individual’s lives and families. Addiction is very complex and deals with biological, physiological, psychological, behavioral and spiritual aspects of a person. It is best to think of addiction as multilayered of disorders, by which compulsive use of the addicting substance is only one of them. Defining addiction is hard enough, so one can imagine how hard diagnosing addiction can be. For this reason, it is left to counselors who are trained and have a vast knowledge of the issue at hand.

Substance Use disorders can be easy to misunderstand and society views drug abuse as being caused by lack of “will”. Even moderate use can affect a person’s mood, mental state, and coping abilities and in ways that can stop therapeutic progress or can develop a more serious substance problem. For these reasons it is important to be familiar with the diagnostic criteria and categories that define substance use disorders. Addiction specialists see substance use disorders as conditions that are influenced by a web of interaction between biological, psychological and social factors that are presented in different degrees in each individual. Social factors include variables such as socioeconomic status, heaving drinking in certain peer groups or subcultures and religious prohibitions against using psychoactive substances. Expectancies about the positive effects of alcohol and other drugs develop through peer influence, adult examples and mass media. These experiences can shape the actual alcohol or drug experience once experimentation has begun. For example, if peer influence prompts you to use drugs or alcohol during parties or different social events, than drinking alcohol or doing drugs becomes part of the inclusion requirement. This can innately be contributed to the social learning theory. Albert Bandura states in the social learning theory that behavior is learned from the environment through observational learning. Reinforcements can then keep the act from continuing. For example, a teenager that begins drinking and begins to feel more self confident or like they are fitting in, will associate drinking with a better image of themselves.

Growing up, a friend of mine would always complain that her parents drank in excess after work every day. They drank to the point of it being a problem and affecting their health. As the years went by, slowly my friend would begin joining her parents and through observed social learning had attributed drinking as a way to cope with the stress of a long day. Gradually, like many within addiction, my friend began losing contact with those who did not enjoy drinking to excess. Her social circle revolved around drinking with her parents and other friends who drank as much as she did.

In many instances, social learning theory can be used for the treatment of addiction. This can be done by incorporating new groups of individuals who have healthier habits into your life, observing and adapting to new positive coping mechanisms and learning refusal skills in response to peer pressure.

Albert Bandura | Social Learning Theory | Simply Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Schlosser, A., & Hoffer, L. (2012). The Psychotropic Self/Imaginary: Subjectivity and Psychopharmaceutical Use Among Heroin Users with Co-Occurring Mental Illness. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 36(1), 26-50.

Washton, A., & Zweben, J. Treating Alcohol and Drug Problems in Psychotherapy Practice: Doing What Works. (2006).Guilford Press.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 1st, 2014 at 2:17 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.


Contents

Neutrality of stressors Edit

Stress is a non-specific response. [5] It is neutral, and what varies is the degree of response. It is all about the context of the individual and how they perceive the situation. Selye defined stress as “the nonspecific (that is, common) result of any demand upon the body, be the effect mental or somatic.” [5] This includes the medical definition of stress as a physical demand and the colloquial definition of stress as a psychological demand. A stressor is inherently neutral meaning that the same stressor can cause either distress or eustress. It is individual differences and responses that induce either distress or eustress. [9]

Types of stressors Edit

A stressor is any event, experience, or environmental stimulus that causes stress in an individual. [10] These events or experiences are perceived as threats or challenges to the individual and can be either physical or psychological. Researchers have found that stressors can make individuals more prone to both physical and psychological problems, including heart disease and anxiety. [11]

Stressors are more likely to affect an individual's health when they are "chronic, highly disruptive, or perceived as uncontrollable". [11] In psychology, researchers generally classify the different types of stressors into four categories: 1) crises/catastrophes, 2) major life events, 3) daily hassles/microstressors, and 4) ambient stressors. According to Ursin (1988), the common factor between these categories is an inconsistency between expected events ("set value") and perceived events ("actual value") that cannot be resolved satisfactorily, [12] which puts stress into the broader context of cognitive-consistency theory. [13]

Crises/catastrophes Edit

This type of stressor is unforeseen and unpredictable and, as such, is completely out of the control of the individual. [11] Examples of crises and catastrophes include: devastating natural disasters, such as major floods or earthquakes, wars, pandemics, etc. Though rare in occurrence, this type of stressor typically causes a great deal of stress in a person's life. A study conducted by Stanford University found that after natural disasters, those affected experienced a significant increase in stress level. [11] Combat stress is a widespread acute and chronic problem. With the rapid pace and the urgency of firing first, tragic episodes of accidentally killing friendly forces (“brother” killing “brother” or fratricide) may happen. Prevention requires stress reduction, emphasis on vehicle and other identification training, awareness of the tactical situation, and continual risk analysis by leaders at all echelons. [14]

Major life events Edit

Common examples of major life events include: marriage, going to college, death of a loved one, birth of a child, divorce, moving houses, etc. These events, either positive or negative, can create a sense of uncertainty and fear, which will ultimately lead to stress. For instance, research has found the elevation of stress during the transition from high school to university, with college freshmen being about two times more likely to be stressed than final year students. [15] Research has found major life events are somewhat rare to be major causes of stress, due to its rare occurrences. [11]

The length of time since occurrence and whether or not it is a positive or negative event are factors in whether or not it causes stress and how much stress it causes. Researchers have found that events that have occurred within the past month generally are not linked to stress or illness, while chronic events that occurred more than several months ago are linked to stress and illness [16] and personality change. [17] Additionally, positive life events are typically not linked to stress – and if so, generally only trivial stress – while negative life events can be linked to stress and the health problems that accompany it. [11] However, positive experiences and positive life changes can predict decreases in neuroticism. [17] [18]

Daily hassles/microstressors Edit

This category includes daily annoyances and minor hassles. [11] Examples include: making decisions, meeting deadlines at work or school, traffic jams, encounters with irritating personalities, etc. Often, this type of stressor includes conflicts with other people. Daily stressors, however, are different for each individual, as not everyone perceives a certain event as stressful. For example, most people find public speaking to be stressful, nevertheless, a seasoned politician most likely will not.

Daily hassles are the most frequently occurring type of stressor in most adults. The high frequency of hassles causes this stressor to have the most physiological effect on an individual. Carolyn Aldwin, Ph.D., conducted a study at the Oregon State University that examined the perceived intensity of daily hassles on an individual's mortality. Aldwin's study concluded that there is a strong correlation between individuals who rate their hassles as very intense and a high level of mortality. One's perception of their daily stressors can have a modulating effect on the physiological impact of daily stressors. [19]

There are three major psychological types of conflicts that can cause stress.

  • The approach-approach conflict, occurs when a person is choosing between two equally attractive options, i.e. whether to go see a movie or to go see a concert. [11]
  • The avoidance-avoidance conflict, occurs where a person has to choose between two equally unattractive options, for example, to take out a second loan with unappealing terms to pay off the mortgage or to face foreclosure on one's house. [11]
  • The approach-avoidance conflict, [11] occurs when a person is forced to choose whether or not to partake in something that has both attractive and unattractive traits – such as whether or not to attend an expensive college (meaning taking out loans now, but also meaning a quality education and employment after graduation).

Travel-related stress results from three main categories: lost time, surprises (an unforeseen event such as lost or delayed baggage) and routine breakers (inability to maintain daily habits). [20]

Ambient stressors Edit

As their name implies, these are global (as opposed to individual) low-grade stressors that are a part of the background environment. They are defined as stressors that are "chronic, negatively valued, non-urgent, physically perceptible, and intractable to the efforts of individuals to change them". [21] Typical examples of ambient stressors are pollution, noise, crowding, and traffic. Unlike the other three types of stressor, ambient stressors can (but do not necessarily have to) negatively impact stress without conscious awareness. They are thus low on what Stokols called "perceptual salience". [ non sequitur] [21]

Organisational stressors Edit

Studies conducted in military and combat fields show that some of the most potent stressors can be due to personal organisational problems in the unit or on the home front. [22] Stress due to bad organisational practices is often connected to "Toxic Leadership", both in companies and in governmental organisations. [23]

Stressor impact Edit

Life events scales can be used to assess stressful things that people experience in their lives. One such scale is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, or SRRS. [24] Developed by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe in 1967, the scale lists 43 stressful events.

To calculate one's score, add up the number of "life change units" if an event occurred in the past year. A score of more than 300 means that individual is at risk for illness, a score between 150 and 299 means risk of illness is moderate, and a score under 150 means that individual only has a slight risk of illness. [11] [24]

Life event Life change units
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 14
Vacation 13
Minor violation of law 10

A modified version was made for non-adults. The scale is below. [11]

Life event Life change units
Unwed pregnancy 100
Death of parent 100
Getting married 95
Divorce of parents 90
Acquiring a visible deformity 80
Fathering an unwed pregnancy 70
Jail sentence of parent for over one year 70
Marital separation of parents 69
Death of a brother or sister 68
Change in acceptance by peers 67
Pregnancy of unwed sister 64
Discovery of being an adopted child 63
Marriage of parent to stepparent 63
Death of a close friend 63
Having a visible congenital deformity 62
Serious illness requiring hospitalization 58
Failure of a grade in school 56
Not making an extracurricular activity 55
Hospitalization of a parent 55
Jail sentence of parent for over 30 days 53
Breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend 53
Beginning to date 51
Suspension from school 50
Becoming involved with drugs or alcohol 50
Birth of a brother or sister 50
Increase in arguments between parents 47
Loss of job by parent 46
Outstanding personal achievement 46
Change in parent's financial status 45
Accepted at college of choice 43
Being a senior in high school 42
Hospitalization of a sibling 41
Increased absence of parent from home 38
Brother or sister leaving home 37
Addition of third adult to family 34
Becoming a full-fledged member of a church 31
Decrease in arguments between parents 27
Decrease in arguments with parents 26
Mother or father beginning work 26

The SRRS is used in psychiatry to weight the impact of life events. [25]

Modern humans may attempt to self-assess their own "stress-level" third parties (sometimes clinicians) may also provide qualitative evaluations. Quantitative approaches giving results which may correlate with perceived psychological stress include testing for one or more of the several stress hormones, [26] for cardiovascular responses, [27] or for immune response. [28]

The body responds to stress in many ways. Readjusting chemical levels is just one of them. This section includes some examples of adjustments and changes.

To measure the body's response to stress, psychologists tend to use Hans Selye's general adaptation syndrome. This biological model, often referred to [ by whom? ] as the "classic stress response", revolves around the concept of homeostasis. General adaptive syndrome, according to this system, occurs in three stages:

  1. The alarm reaction. This stage occurs when the stressor is first presented. The body begins to gather resources to deal with the stressor. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system are activated, resulting in the release of hormones from the adrenal gland such as cortisol, adrenaline (epinephrine), and norepinephrine into the bloodstream to adjust bodily processes. These hormonal adjustments increase energy-levels, increase muscle tension, reduce sensitivity to pain, slow down the digestive system, and cause a rise in blood pressure. [29][30] In addition, the locus coeruleus, a collection of norepinephrine-containing neurons in the pons of the brainstem whose axons project to various regions of the brain, is involved in releasing norepinephrine directly onto neurons. High levels of norepinephrine acting as a neurotransmitter on its receptors expressed on neurons in brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex, are thought [by whom?] to be involved in the effects of stress on executive functions, such as impaired working memory.
  2. The stage of resistance. The body continues building up resistance throughout the stage of resistance, either until the body's resources are depleted, leading to the exhaustion phase, or until the stressful stimulus is removed. As the body uses up more and more of its resources, it becomes increasingly tired and susceptible to illness. At this stage psychosomatic disorders first begin to appear. [30]
  3. The stage of exhaustion. The body is completely drained of the hormones and resources it was depending on to manage the stressor. The person now begins to exhibit behaviors such as anxiety, irritability, avoidance of responsibilities and relationships, self-destructive behavior, and poor judgment. Someone experiencing these symptoms has a much greater chance of lashing out, damaging relationships, or avoiding social interaction at all. [30]

This physiological stress response involves high levels of sympathetic nervous system activation, often referred to [ by whom? ] as the "fight or flight" response. The response involves pupil dilation, release of endorphins, increased heart and respiration rates, cessation of digestive processes, secretion of adrenaline, arteriole dilation, and constriction of veins. This high level of arousal is often unnecessary to adequately cope with micro-stressors and daily hassles yet, this is the response-pattern seen in humans, which often leads to health issues commonly associated [ by whom? ] with high levels of stress. [31] [ need quotation to verify ]

Cancer Edit

Evidence for a link between stress and cancer is unclear as of 2019 [update] . [32] This can be due to practical difficulties in designing and implementing adequate studies. [33] Research has found that personal belief in stress as a risk factor for cancer was common in England, though awareness of risk factors overall was found to be low. [34]

Sleep Edit

Sleep allows people to rest and re-energise for another day potentially filled with interactions and tasks. If someone is stressed it is extremely important for them to get enough sleep so that they can think clearly. [ citation needed ] However, chemical changes in the body caused by stress can make sleep a difficult thing. [ citation needed ] The body releases glucocorticoids in response to stress this can disrupt sleep. [35] [ citation needed ]

Other effects Edit

There is likely a connection between stress and illness. [36] [ need quotation to verify ] Theories of a proposed stress–illness link suggest that both acute and chronic stress can cause illness, and studies have found such a link. [37] According to these theories, both kinds of stress can lead to changes in behavior and in physiology. Behavioral changes can involve smoking- and eating-habits and physical activity. Physiological changes can be changes in sympathetic activation or hypothalamic pituitary adrenocorticoid activation, and immunological function. [38] However, there is much variability in the link between stress and illness. [39]

Stress can make the individual more susceptible to physical illnesses like the common cold. [40] [ need quotation to verify ] Stressful events, such as job changes, correlate with insomnia, impaired sleeping, and health complaints. [41] Research indicates the type of stressor (whether it is acute or chronic) and individual characteristics such as age and physical well-being before the onset of the stressor can combine to determine the effect of stress on an individual. [42] An individual's personality characteristics (such as level of neuroticism), [17] genetics, and childhood experiences with major stressors and traumas [18] may also dictate their response to stressors. [42]

Chronic stress and a lack of coping resources available or used by an individual can often lead to the development of psychological issues such as depression and anxiety (see below for further information). [43] This is particularly true regarding chronic stressors. These are stressors that may not be as intense as an acute stressor like a natural disaster or a major accident, but they persist over longer periods of time. These types of stressors tend to have a more negative impact on health because they are sustained and thus require the body's physiological response to occur daily. This depletes the body's energy more quickly and usually occurs over long periods of time, especially when such microstressors cannot be avoided (for example: stress related to living in a dangerous neighborhood). See allostatic load for further discussion of the biological process by which chronic stress may affect the body. For example, studies have found that caregivers, particularly those of dementia patients, have higher levels of depression and slightly worse physical health than non-caregivers. [44]

Studies have also shown that perceived chronic stress and the hostility associated with Type A personalities are often correlate with much higher risks of cardiovascular disease. This occurs because of the compromised immune system as well as the high levels of arousal in the sympathetic nervous system that occur as part of the body's physiological response to stressful events. [45] However, it is possible for individuals to exhibit hardiness – a term referring to the ability to be both chronically stressed and healthy. [46] Chronic stress can correlate with psychological disorders such as delusions. [47] Pathological anxiety and chronic stress lead to structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus. [48]

It has long been believed [ by whom? ] that negative affective states, such as feelings of anxiety and depression, could influence the pathogenesis of physical disease, which in turn, have direct effects on biological process that could result in increased risk of disease in the end. However, studies done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other places have shown this to be partly untrue although perceived stress seems to increase the risk of reported poor health, the additional perception of stress as something harmful increases the risk even further. [49] [50] For example, when humans are under chronic stress, permanent changes in their physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses are most likely to occur. [17] [33] Such changes could lead to disease. [ citation needed ] Chronic stress results from stressful events that persist over a relatively long period of time, such as caring for a spouse with dementia, or results from brief focal events that continue to be experienced as overwhelming even long after they are over, such as experiencing a sexual assault.

Experiments show that when healthy human individuals are exposed to acute laboratory stressors, they show an adaptive enhancement of some markers of natural immunity but a general suppression of functions of specific immunity. By comparison, when healthy human individuals are exposed to real-life chronic stress, this stress is associated with a biphasic immune response where partial suppression of cellular and humoral function coincides with low-grade, nonspecific inflammation. [51]

Even though psychological stress is often connected [ by whom? ] with illness or disease, most healthy individuals can still remain disease-free after confronting chronic stressful events. Also, people who do not believe that stress will affect their health do not have an increased risk of illness, disease, or death. [50] This suggests that there are individual differences in vulnerability to the potential pathogenic effects of stress individual differences in vulnerability arise due to both genetic and psychological factors. In addition, the age at which the stress is experienced can dictate its effect on health. Research suggests chronic stress at a young age can have lifelong impacts on the biological, psychological, and behavioral responses to stress later in life. [52]

Communication Edit

When someone is stressed, many challenges can arise a recognized challenge being communication difficulties. Here are some examples of how stress can hinder communication.

The cultures of the world generally fall into two categories individualistic and collectivistic. [53]

  • An individualistic culture, like that of the United States, where everyone is an independent entity defined by their accomplishments and goals.
  • A collectivistic culture, like that of many Asian countries, prefers to see individuals as interdependent on each other. They value modesty and family.

These cultural differences can affect how people communicate when they are stressed. For example, a member of an individualistic culture would be hesitant to ask for pain medication for fear of being perceived as weak. A member of a collectivistic culture would not hesitate. They have been brought up in a culture where everyone helps each other and is one functional unit whereas the member of the individualistic culture is not as comfortable asking others for aid. [53]

Language barriers Edit

Language barriers can cause stress by making people feel uncomfortable because differences in syntax, vocabulary, different ways of showing respect, and different use of body language can make things difficult, and along with a desire for successful social interactions, being uncomfortable with the communication around a person can discourage them from communicating at all.

The System 1 – System 2 model of Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow) and others would distinguish between automatic responses, such as one's native language would be, and a foreign language that required System 2 work to translate. System 2 can become "depleted" by conscious mental effort, making it more difficult and stressful. [54]

Changes in the home Edit

Divorce, death, and remarriage are all disruptive events in a household. [53] Although everyone involved is affected by events such as these, it can be most drastically seen in children. Due to their age, children have relatively undeveloped coping skills. [55] For this reason a stressful event may cause some changes in their behavior. Falling in with a new crowd, developing some new and sometimes undesirable habits are just some of the changes stress may trigger in their lives. [53]

A particularly interesting response to stress is talking to an imaginary friend. A child may feel angry with a parent or their peers who they feel brought this change on them. They need someone to talk to but it definitely would not be the person with whom they are angry. That is when the imaginary friend comes in. They “talk” to this imaginary friend but in doing so they cut off communication with the real people around them. [53]

Social support and health Edit

Researchers have long been interested in how an individual's level and types of social support impact the effect of stress on their health. Studies consistently show that social support can protect against physical and mental consequences of stress. [56] [57] This can occur through a variety of mechanisms. One model, known as the "direct effects" model, holds that social support has a direct, positive impact on health by increasing positive affect, promoting adaptive health behaviors, predictability and stability in life, and safeguarding against social, legal, and economic concerns that could negatively impact health. Another model, the "buffering effect", says that social support exerts greatest influence on health in times of stress, either by helping individuals appraise situations in less threatening manners or coping with the actual stress. Researchers have found evidence to support both these pathways. [58]

Social support is defined more specifically as psychological and material resources provided by a social network that are aimed at helping an individual cope with stress. [59] Researchers generally distinguish among several types of social support: instrumental support – which refers to material aid (e.g., financial support or assistance in transportation to a physician's appointment), informational support (e.g., knowledge, education or advice in problem-solving), and emotional support (e.g., empathy, reassurance, etc.). [59] Social support can reduce the rate of stress during pregnancy. [ citation needed ]

Stress management refers to a wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person's levels of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of improving everyday functioning. It involves controlling and reducing the tension that occurs in stressful situations by making emotional and physical changes.

Prevention and resilience building Edit

Decreasing stressful behaviors is a part of prevention. Some of the common strategies and techniques are: self-monitoring, tailoring, material reinforcement, social reinforcement, social support, self-contracting, contracting with significant other, shaping, reminders, self-help groups, and professional help. [60] [ further explanation needed ]

Although many techniques have traditionally been developed to deal with the consequences of stress, considerable research has also been conducted on the prevention of stress, a subject closely related to psychological resilience-building. A number of self-help approaches to stress-prevention and resilience-building have been developed, drawing mainly on the theory and practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy. [61]

Biofeedback may also play a role in stress management. A randomized study by Sutarto et al. assessed the effect of resonant breathing biofeedback (recognize and control involuntary heart rate variability) among manufacturing operators depression, anxiety and stress significantly decreased. [62]

Exercising to reduce stress Edit

Studies have shown that exercise reduces stress. [63] Exercise effectively reduces fatigue, improves sleep, enhances overall cognitive function such as alertness and concentration, decreases overall levels of tension, and improves self-esteem. [63] Because many of these are depleted when an individual experiences chronic stress, exercise provides an ideal coping mechanism. Despite popular belief, it is not necessary for exercise to be routine or intense in order to reduce stress as little as five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. [63] Further, a 10-minute walk may have the same psychological benefits as a 45-minute workout, reinforcing the assertion that exercise in any amount or intensity will reduce stress. [63]

Theoretical explanations Edit

A multitude of theories have been presented in attempts to explain why exercise effectively reduces stress. One theory, known as the time-out hypothesis, claims that exercise provides distraction from the stressor. The time out hypothesis claims that exercise effectively reduces stress because it gives individuals a break from their stressors. This was tested in a recent study of college women who had identified studying as their primary stressor. [64] The women were then placed under four conditions at varying times: "rest," "studying," "exercising," and "studying while exercising." The stress levels of the participants were measured through self-assessments of stress and anxiety symptoms after each condition. The results demonstrated that the "exercise" condition had the most significant reduction in stress and anxiety symptoms. [64] These results demonstrate the validity of the time-out hypothesis. [64] It is also important to note that exercise provided greater stress reduction than rest.

Coping mechanisms Edit

The Lazarus and Folkman model suggests that external events create a form of pressure to achieve, engage in, or experience a stressful situation. Stress is not the external event itself, but rather an interpretation and response to the potential threat this is when the coping process begins. [65]

There are various ways individuals deal with perceived threats that may be stressful. However, people have a tendency to respond to threats with a predominant coping style, in which they dismiss feelings, or manipulate the stressful situation. [65]

There are different classifications for coping, or defense mechanisms, however they all are variations on the same general idea: There are good/productive and negative/counterproductive ways to handle stress. Because stress is perceived, the following mechanisms do not necessarily deal with the actual situation that is causing an individual stress. However, they may be considered coping mechanisms if they allow the individual to cope better with the negative feelings/anxiety that they are experiencing due to the perceived stressful situation, as opposed to actually fixing the concrete obstacle causing the stress. The following mechanisms are adapted from the DSM-IV Adaptive Functioning Scale, APA, 1994.

Highly adaptive/active/problem-focused mechanisms Edit

These skills are what one could call as “facing the problem head on”, or at least dealing with the negative emotions experienced by stress in a constructive manner. (generally adaptive)

  • Affiliation ("tend and befriend") – involves dealing with stress by turning to a social network for support, but an individual does not share with others in order to diffuse or avoid the responsibility. [66][67]
  • Humour – the individual steps outside of a situation in order to gain greater perspective, and also to highlight any comic aspect to be found in their stressful circumstances. [66]
  • Sublimation – allows an "indirect resolution of conflict with neither adverse consequences nor consequences marked by loss of pleasure." [70] Essentially, this mechanism allows channeling of troubling emotions or impulses into an outlet that is socially acceptable.
  • Positive reappraisal – redirects thoughts (cognitive energy) to good things that are either occurring or have not occurred. This can lead to personal growth, self-reflection, and awareness of the power/benefits of one's efforts. [71] For example, studies on veterans of war or peacekeeping operations indicate that persons who construe a positive meaning from their combat or threat experiences tend to adjust better than those who do not. [72]

The final path model fitted well (CF1 = 1, RMSEA = 0.00) and showed that direct quality of life paths with β = -0.2, and indirect social support with β = -0.088 had the most effects on reduction of stress during pregnancy. [ non sequitur] Other adaptive coping mechanisms include anticipation, altruism, and self-observation.

Mental inhibition/disavowal mechanisms Edit

These mechanisms cause the individual to have a diminished (or in some cases non-existent) awareness about their anxiety, threatening ideas, fears, etc., that come from being conscious of the perceived threat.

  • Displacement – This is when an individual redirects their emotional feelings about one situation to another, less threatening one. [73]
  • Repression – Repression occurs when an individual attempts to remove all their thoughts, feelings, and anything related to the upsetting/stressful (perceived) threat out of their awareness in order to be disconnected from the entire situation. When done long enough in a successful way, this is more than just denial.
  • Reaction formation – An attempt to remove any “unacceptable thoughts” from one's consciousness by replacing them with the exact opposite. [74]

Other inhibition coping mechanisms include undoing, dissociation, denial, projection, and rationalization. Although some people claim that inhibition coping mechanisms may eventually increase the stress level because the problem is not solved, detaching from the stressor can sometimes help people to temporarily release the stress and become more prepared to deal with problems later on.

Active mechanisms Edit

These methods deal with stress by an individual literally taking action, or withdrawing.

  • Acting out – Often viewed as counter-normative, or problematic behavior. Instead of reflecting or problem-solving, an individual takes maladaptive action. [67]
  • Passive aggression – When an individual indirectly deals with their anxiety and negative thoughts/feelings stemming from their stress by acting in a hostile or resentful manner towards others. Help-Rejecting Complaining can also be included in this category.

Health promotion Edit

There is an alternative method to coping with stress, in which one works to minimize their anxiety and stress in a preventative manner. If one works towards coping with stress daily, the feeling of stress and the ways in which one deals with it as the external event arises becomes less of a burden.

Suggested strategies to improve stress management include: [75]

  1. Regular exercise – set up a fitness program, 3–4 times a week
  2. Support systems – to listen, offer advice, and support each other
  3. Time management – develop an organizational system
  4. Guided imagery and visualization – create a relaxing state of mind
  5. Progressive muscle relaxation – loosen tense muscle groups training – work on effective communication
  6. Journal writing – express true emotion, self-reflection
  7. Stress management in the workplace – organize a new system, switch tasks to reduce own stress.

Depending on the situation, all of these coping mechanisms may be adaptive, or maladaptive.

Prior to the introduction of the concept "stress" in the psychological sense c. 1955, [76] [77] people already identified a range of more nuanced ideas to describe and confront such emotions as worry, grief, concern, [78] obsession, fear, annoyance, anxiety, distress, suffering and passion. [79] "Stress" has subsequently become a mainstay of pop psychology. [80] [81]


When Peer Pressure Is a Good Thing

I n every classroom, there is a kind of tipping point when the unmotivated students either get pulled along by the high achievers, or the unmotivated students hold the high achievers back.

I see this all the time teaching English at Coachella Valley High School in Southern California&rsquos Inland Empire. Most of my students come from low-income households, have had to learn English as a second language, and hope to be the first in their families to go to college. They&rsquove been told since they were in elementary school that higher education is their ticket to a better life, and many have come to believe this.

But high school is a big place, full of distractions. For many, school becomes about socializing, partying and striving to fit in. Other students are stressed by balancing school with a relationship, by responsibilities at home, or by a part-time job. Added to these pressures is the anxiety caused by the daunting cost of higher education. As a result of all these pressures&mdashand low expectations&mdashtoo few students are truly prepared for college by the time they graduate.

One way to keep our students focused on college is to make them aware of Advanced Placement courses as early as possible. Currently, we offer 14 AP courses at Coachella Valley High, from calculus to Spanish literature. While I know that our very highest achievers are going to take these courses and succeed, I believe that for the majority of students, the cultural mindset of their classmates is just as important as the educator in the front of the classroom. The sooner that students with college ambitions take such courses, the better they&rsquoll be prepared for the rigors of college. And the more we can grow the AP program at our school, the more students will share goals and values&mdashand this high-achieving mindset.

So this last November we formed the Coachella Valley High School Advanced Placement Club to support AP and future AP students and encourage more people to take these classes. How we would do this, I wasn&rsquot quite sure at first, but I agreed to be the advisor anyway. Maybe we could use my room as a study hall after school. Maybe club members would want to raise money for college field trips. Maybe we could all get T-shirts.

Mostly seniors and juniors&mdashalong with a few sophomores&mdashpacked into my classroom after school for our first meeting. We elected officers, approved our constitution, and formed our first committees: fundraising, T-shirts, and freshman awareness. We decided to meet on a weekly basis and then adjourned so that the committees could meet separately to discuss ideas and plans.

And then this wonderful thing happened. About 20 of the students who&rsquod stayed for the freshman awareness committee gathered in a rough circle of chairs. Itcelia, a senior in my AP English literature class and our newly elected vice president, asked, &ldquoWhat do you know now that you wish someone had told you as a freshman?&rdquo

And then they all started sharing. I sat at my desk in the back of the room and just listened. They discussed the benefits of honors and AP classes, the importance of homework and time management, and the need to balance academics with activities, clubs, sports, community service, and so on. It was amazing. Here was a cross section of our school&rsquos highest achievers made up of a diversity of personality types and interests&mdashnot just the &ldquonerd herd&rdquo but the drama kids, the artists, the athletes, the cheerleaders, the class officers, and students from career academies&mdashbuilding a master plan for high school success.

They decided to bring that plan to the freshmen themselves. By the next meeting, Itcelia had contacted an administrator and gotten freshman teachers&rsquo permission to give presentations in their classrooms. She and the other freshman awareness committee members created a PowerPoint slideshow. Club members volunteered to present based on which of their own classes they could afford to miss.

After the presentations, the students gathered to debrief. Some of them had spoken to the freshmen about resisting the pressure to dumb down in order to stay popular, or to get someone to like you. Itcelia was thrilled that during one of her presentations a freshman girl had shared that she liked a boy until she found out he didn&rsquot know the difference between your and you&rsquore. &ldquoSmart is the new sexy,&rdquo someone in the group said, defining the moment and themselves.

Surprisingly, one of the groups met resistance from a teacher who thought they were being unrealistic in encouraging students to take as many AP classes as possible. But Itcelia, presently enrolled in four AP classes, active in several clubs and community service projects, and in rehearsals for the school&rsquos production of Grease, passionately disagreed. She remembered that when she was a freshman, some upperclassmen tried to discourage her from taking AP classes, saying they were too demanding and wouldn&rsquot leave room for anything else. &ldquoBut that just isn&rsquot true,&rdquo she said. &ldquoIt&rsquos all about setting priorities and managing your time.&rdquo

The success of the presentations inspired me to create a club website with links to information on AP courses, colleges, careers, admission tests, financial aid, and scholarships.

The site also includes a weekly blog featuring essays from teachers, counselors, alumni, community professionals, and fellow students. Many wrote about their own paths to college and the fears and obstacles they had to overcome, and others about the importance of reading or the value of stories in the community. One student wrote about the need for academic rivalries and another published a poem on immigration. We gave away T-shirts that display our blog address alongside inspirational quotes from authors and civil rights leaders or witty slogans like, &ldquoYou had me at your proper use of you&rsquore.&rdquo We got more freshmen to join the club, and at meetings we had great discussions that often began with questions for seniors from underclassmen, particularly juniors looking ahead at their last year of high school.

This next year, with new seniors and a clearer sense of direction, we will build on these successes. We want to increase membership, raise money for college field trips, and encourage more students to interact with and write for our blog.

High school peer pressure can work in positive as well as negative ways, and individual success is often the result of a community of support. With the help of student leaders like Itcelia, who, by the way, graduated as class salutatorian and will attend UC Berkeley in the fall, I believe we can continue to tip the scales of academic motivation in the right direction.

Philip Hoy is a high school English teacher by day and short-story author, novelist, and blogger by night. When he is not creating lesson plans or grading essays, he is writing. He lives in Southern California with his wife Magdalena, also a teacher. This article was written for Zócalo Public Square and is supported by a grant from the California Wellness Foundation


Comments

I work in a Las Vegas casino as a manager. I work with an average of 15 employees a day plus my director and
other department heads.. I am constantly being pulled in multiple directions being asked to do a variety of duties, along with dealing with our customers and trying to keep them happy, I’m finding the stress has been almost unbearable at times and has made me make incorrect decisions more and more often.

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Study 1

In the first study, undergraduate psychology studied two carefully matched topics, one in a face-to-face class and the other online, with the order counterbalanced between two groups. We compared marks on the two topics, and examined the students' comments on their experience of completing the activities, one in-class and one online.

Methods

Participants

Participants were 67 third-year (advanced level) undergraduate students at an Australian university, 13 male and 54 female. Their mean age was 24 years (SD 7.1 years), and all spoke English as a first language. The students took part in the study as part of their unit on developmental psychology, but gave consent for their data also to be used for research purposes. All were familiar and confident with the web-based platform used for delivering the online activities. The study received approval from the university's Human Research Ethics Committee.

Materials and Procedure

Participants completed written exercises, a class discussion, and a written test (worth 5% of their overall mark) on two academic topics, one week apart. The first topic concerned children's stages of cognitive development, and the second, children's stages of drawing development. Three classes of students participated. The classes were allocated to two groups (as described in the next paragraph), with the larger class allocated to Group 1 (n = 27), and the two smaller classes to Group 2 (n = 40). This meant that the two groups differed in size. However, there were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of age [M = 23.2 years (SD 6.2) and M = 26.0 years (SD 8.2), respectively], sex distribution (80 and 82% female), or overall performance in this unit [M = 62.4% (SD 11.6%) and M = 65.0% (SD 10.0%)], all ps > 0.1.

In Week 1, both groups of participants completed the face-to-face activities in their weekly practical class. Group 1 students discussed their recent experience of observing a child completing several tasks of conservation of matter (e.g., conservation of liquid, conservation of number, Piaget, 1954). The previous week, each student had individually administered these tasks to a 5- to 12-year-old child of their acquaintance. The few students who did not know a child to visit had viewed multiple online videos of children being administered these tasks and chosen the one on which they would like to answer the test questions. There were no differences in performance between these two sets of students. Group 2 students were given a series of self-portraits drawn by children aged 2� years, and a copy of Lowenfeld's (1939) stages of drawing development.

In class, the tutor initiated the discussion with more general questions, for example (for conservation, Group 1): “What did you find most difficult about giving the task, and how did you overcome this difficulty?,” and (for drawing, Group 2) 𠇍o you think it would be easy or difficult to persuade a child of this age to produce a self-portrait? Do you think it would be easier with older or younger children?.” The questions later narrowed in on theory, with the tutor asking the students in Group 1 to discuss which cognitive stage they thought the child was in (in terms of Piaget's stage model of cognitive development, e.g., pre-operations or concrete operations), and how the wording of the adult's instructions could influence the child's performance. In Group 2, the tutor asked the students to decide which developmental stage each self-portrait seemed to represent (e.g., pre-schematic drawing, schematic drawing), and why. They also talked about the motor skills required for drawing. For both groups, discussions took place first in small groups and then as a whole class, over a 1-h period, with the questions provided by the tutor but the discussion structured by the students themselves. At the end of the class, both groups were then given a half-hour, in-class, written test on the topic that they had just studied (i.e., development of conservation or drawing):

1. Participants answered six short-answer questions structured as similarly as possible for the two topics (e.g., Conservation: Based on your observation, which Piagetian stage do you think this child is in, and why? Drawing: Based on the drawing, which of Lowenfeld's stages do you think this child is in, and why?)

2. Participants rated their preference for completing these activities face-to-face vs. online, on a five-point scale ranging from 1 (“much prefer to do in class”) to 5 (“much prefer to do online”), and were asked to identify “one thing that was good about doing the activities in class, not online,” and “one thing that would have been good about doing the activities online, not in class.”

During the following week (Week 2), both groups of participants completed the online activities at a time of their own choosing, for the topic that they had not covered in the previous week. Group 1 scrolled through the series of children's self-portraits, presented in PDF form, and were provided with an online copy of Lowenfeld's (1939) stages of drawing development. Group 2 were asked to think about the conservation tasks they had observed.

Both groups were asked to consider the same questions that had been considered in the face-to-face classes as described above, for drawing development (Group 1) and for cognitive development (Group 2). Students were then instructed to go to the online discussion board. They did not have to transcribe their answers for all of the questions that they had considered, but were asked to contribute their answers to the questions that they “had found most interesting,” or to explain any questions that they “had found particularly difficult, and why.” Students were also asked to read others' contributions, and to respond to them, “linking their experiences and answers with yours if you can.”

The opportunity to reflect on the materials and questions, and to contribute to the online discussion, was available for 5 days, with each participant contributing at least once. Each participant contributed to the discussion, as required (with at least one discussion post that covered several questions). The day after the online discussion board was closed, the online version of the test was made available, with the same questions as in the face-to-face version:

1. Participants responded in writing to the same six short-answer questions answered in class the week before.

2. Participants rated their preference for completing these activities face-to-face or online, and were asked to identify “one thing that was good about doing the activities online, not in class,” and “one thing that would have been good about doing the activities in class, not online.”

Students had 4 days in which to do the test, which was open for 30 min once it was begun. It is possible that the students completing the test online could have accessed extra information (from the internet) than the students completing the test in class (without internet access). However, trying to find further information during the limited time available for writing the test answers would not have been very helpful. The questions were focused on discussing the conservation or drawing performance of “their” child, and all students (in class and online) had access to a copy of Lowenfeld's stages, and all had been aware that they would need to revise the basics of Piaget's cognitive stage theory for the test.

In summary, both groups completed the same activities, discussion and tests, but in Week 1 both groups did so in face-to-face classes (on cognitive development for Group 1 and on drawing development for Group 2) and in Week 2 both groups did so online (on drawing development for Group 2 and on cognitive development for Group 1).

Results and Discussion

Class marks and preferences

Participants' marks on the two tests, as well as their stated preferences for studying each topic face-to-face or online, were calculated. Table 1 shows the means and standard deviations on each of these factors, for participants in the two groups. As seen in the table, students showed an overall preference for studying topics face-to-face rather than online, with their average preferences of around 2 hovering much closer to the “much prefer to do in class” end of the 5-point scale than the “much prefer to do online” end of the scale.

Table 1. Study 1: Mean Marks and Modality Preferences across Task and Modality.

A series of repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVAs) showed that there were no significant differences between the groups on any of the comparisons made. The two groups did not differ significantly in the marks they gained, in terms of either the topic they were tested on [F(1, 65) = 0.67, p = 0.42, partial η 2 = 0.01] or modality in which this test was presented [F(1, 65) = 0.31, p = 0.58, partial η 2 = 0.01]. Nor did they differ significantly in their modality preference, in terms of either the topic about which they were asked [F(1, 65) = 0.42, p = 0.52, partial η 2 = 0.01] or the modality in which they were asked it [F(1, 65) = 0.05, p = 0.82, partial η 2 = 0.001]. We followed up this significant group difference in modality preference by also considering whether there was a significant difference in terms of the number of students who (much) preferred to do the tasks in class and those who (much) preferred to do them online/did not mind either way. A chi-squared analysis confirmed that significantly more students preferred to complete the tasks in class (n = 47) than online/didn't mind (n = 20), χ 2 (1) = 10.89, p < 0.001.

Pearson correlations were calculated to see if there was any association between participants' academic performance and their preference for learning face-to-face vs. online. We first considered participants' scores on the two topic-specific tests and their reported modality preference for each topic. The correlations were not significant for either the topic done online (r =𢄠.02, p = 0.85), or the topic done in class (r = 0.01, p = 0.95). This suggests that students did not simply prefer a modality because they felt they had performed better on the task in that modality, and nor did they perform better in the modality that they already preferred. We then looked at participants' final mark on this entire academic unit (M = 64.0%, SD = 10.7%), and calculated the correlation between this mark and their modality preference averaged over the face-to-face and online tasks (M = 2.09, SD = 0.92). The correlation was not significant (r = 𢄠.11, p = 0.40), suggesting no consistent relationship between overall academic performance and preference for learning online or in class. Finally, we confirmed that there was no significant correlation between participant age and modality preference (r = 0.01, p = 0.97), nor between age and overall marks (r = 0.05, p = 0.69).

Qualitative comments

We also asked participants to note one thing that they liked better about completing the activities (exercises, discussion, and test) face-to-face, and one thing about what they liked better about completing them online. Participants provided their own freeform answers, which we then subjected to thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006). We chose thematic analysis rather than a more specific approach such as Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) or Discourse Analysis, as we wished to identify repeated patterns of meaning, or themes, in the responses, but without attaching our analysis to any pre-existing theoretical framework. We followed Braun and Clarke's (2006) six phases to identify the themes as they emerged from an analysis of students' responses, rather than pre-existing themes being imposed on a grouping of the responses. Specifically, we (1) familiarized ourselves with the scope and nature of the students' responses to both the “in-class” and “online” questions, and (2) generated initial codes on the basis of a subset of 25 participants' responses, by identifying the overall point made in each response with a 2- to 4-word summary code, which we (3) collated into tentative themes and modified as we reviewed another 25 responses. These potential themes were then (4) reviewed to check how they fitted with the entire data set, and (5) the themes were refined into an exhaustive set of final themes for all responses, which were named and clearly defined. Finally, (6) the most representative example for each theme was selected, and the final analysis related back to the research questions. Although participants had been asked to provide only one reason for liking something about each modality, many provided two or even more reasons. We included the first one or two reasons given in our thematic analysis. Table 2 shows the proportion of responses that were categorized into each them, for face-to-face and online learning, for the whole sample, n = 67.

Table 2. Study 1: Proportion of Responses per Theme, for Face-to-Face and Online Learning.

In justifying their modality preferences about completing the activities face-to-face, the 67 participants provided 102 reasons overall. The themes that emerged were as follows:

More engagement: This was the theme with the most responses, with students noting that they felt more engaged when the activities were completed in the social environment of a classroom setting, rather than online. Most also commented that they felt this greater engagement led to more meaningful discussion, for example, I think that discussion face to face really allows you to think more deeply and bounce ideas of other people. Writing it online, felt like your answers had to be more formal and exact, whereas in class discussion I felt you could really bounce more possible ideas off each other before coming to a conclusion.

Immediate feedback: The next most common theme was that participants appreciated the fact that each comment they made in class immediately elicited a related comment from a peer, or a clarification from the tutor in real time, rather than having to wait hours for a response to their particular comment online. An illustrative example is, You are able to directly discuss with tutor and peers and therefore directly receive feedback for your questions and others questions.

Overall, 80% of the first reasons (and 37% of second reasons) that participants gave to illustrate the benefits of in-class activities fitted these themes of “more engagement” and “immediate feedback.” Some of remaining responses referred to more practical considerations:

No wish to read comments: Some students noted that they had no wish to read the comments of their classmates online, although they were happy to listen to and interact with their classmates in real life.

Easier to review paper documents: Others noted it was easier to review material in class, because they could spread out the pages in front of them on a table rather than scrolling through on screen. The other remaining responses fitted the more pedagogically motivated themes that in-class interaction provided:

Deeper understanding and a

Better flow of argument.

When explaining their preferred modality for online activities, the 67 participants provided 78 reasons, rather fewer than the 102 that they had given about face-to-face classes.

Convenience: The most common theme was a practical one the greater convenience of being able to complete the online activities in their own time (within the given week), and/or at any location, as in the comment, Can do it at anytime, and anywhere.

Wider contributions: The second most common theme was that the online discussion allowed contributions from a greater range of people than a class discussion, in which shyer students sometimes stayed quiet in the presence of their more outspoken peers, for example, Discussion not dominated by loud, confident people.

More detailed responses: Students also noted that the online discussion forum encouraged more detailed responses than in-class discussion (where conversational turns were typically shorter, but more frequent, than in writing), as in the response, I thought it was good to be able to read everyone's experiences with full details, as time restraints in class don't allow for each individual to thoroughly go through their task.

Together, 84% of first reasons (and 69% of second reasons) fitted these three themes. The remaining responses were categorized into smaller themes specifically:

More time to think: Some students noted that providing responses online gave them more time to consider their answers than having to speak spontaneously in class.

Faster to type: It was noted that it was faster to provide answers to the test when it was typed online than handwritten in the classroom.

Less judgment: Finally, some students felt less judged by their tutor and peers when answers could be written than spoken.

Overall, many of the reasons that students gave for each modality differed from those seen in previous literature, as is taken up again in the General Discussion.


Mind & Body Articles & More

Daniela Kaufer is an associate professor at UC Berkeley who studies the biology of stress, examining at the molecular level how the brain responds to anxiety and traumatic events. Her recent findings reveal the difference between good stress and bad stress, as well as pointers for how to respond to stressful events in a healthy way. She was interviewed by health writer Peter Jaret for the Berkeley Wellness newsletter, where this Q&A originally appeared.

Peter Jaret: Most of us think of stress as a bad thing. Can stress be good for you?

Daniela Kaufer in the lab. © Peg Skorpinski, UC Berkeley

Daniela Kaufer: The prevailing idea in our culture is that stress is bad. People complain about being stressed out. But we’re learning that moderate amounts of stress have powerful benefits. The stress response is designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it. Our research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory.

PJ: How do you measure the effects of stress?

DK: In our work, we study the effects of stress on rats, and we look specifically at the growth of stem cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in the stress response, and it’s also very important for learning and memory. We’ve found that when rats are exposed to moderate stress for a short time—being immobilized for a few hours, for instance—stem cell growth is stimulated, and those cells go on to form neurons, or brain cells. A couple of weeks later, tests show improvements in learning and memory. We’ve shown that the specific cells generated during stress have become activated. But when the animals are exposed to chronic or intense stress—being immobilized for days at a time, for example, or being immobilized and then exposed to the smell of a predator—stem cell growth is suppressed and fewer brain cells are generated.

PJ: What about people? Can manageable amounts of stress boost brain power?

DK: We think the same thing happens in people. Manageable stress increases alertness and performance. And by encouraging the growth of stem cells that become brain cells, stress improves memory. The increase in stem cells and neuron generation makes sense from an adaptive point of view. If an animal encounters a predator and manages to escape, it’s important to remember where and when that encounter happened, to avoid it in the future. If you’re walking down an alley and somebody threatens you, it’s important to remember exactly where you were in order to avoid that alley in the future. The brain is constantly responding to stress. Extreme or chronic stress can have a negative effect. But moderate and short-lived stress—like an upcoming exam or preparing to deliver a speech in public—improves cognitive performance and memory.

PJ: When does too much stress become harmful?

DK: Individuals vary widely in how they respond to stress. The same stressor may be manageable for one person and overwhelming for another, depending in part on perception. People who feel resilient and confident that they can manage stress are much less likely to be overwhelmed by it—and more likely to have a healthy response—than people who think of stress as bad. Another factor is control. Stress is much less likely to be harmful if people have some control over the situation. A tight deadline is stressful but manageable if you have the ability to meet it. If not, if you feel helpless, the stress is more likely to be harmful. Early life experiences also shape how people respond to stress. If you have a lot of stress in your early life, you may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress. Research by Rachel Yehuda, a scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York, has shown that Holocaust survivors have increased levels of stress hormones. Her most recent research shows that even offspring of Holocaust survivors have higher stress hormone levels.

PJ: Your work focuses on the effects of stress on the brain. Does stress affect other systems of the body?

DK: Chronic stress can constrict blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that too much stress can suppress the immune system. Ours and other research has shown that chronic stress also reduces fertility in animals. In female mice, for instance, stress lowers libido, reduces fertility, and increases the risk of miscarriage. We also know that extreme stress can lead to post traumatic stress disorder, which is an area I’m very interested in. As I’ve said, it’s important to remember threats. But it’s also important to be able to forget them as new experiences come along. Let’s say a man with a long white beard frightens you as a child. It’s healthy to begin to forget that memory as you come to see that men with long white beards aren’t inherently dangerous. The problem with post traumatic stress disorder is that people can’t forget. They can’t let traumatic memories go. The question is why. And we don’t have an answer yet.

More on Stress

Robert Sapolsky explores the psychology of stress.

Jeremy Adam Smith explains the relationship between stress and empathy.

PJ: Can you offer any helpful strategies to ensure that stress is beneficial rather than harmful?

DK: If you tend to have a positive attitude—a self-confident sense that you can get through a rough period—you’re more likely to have a healthy response than if you perceive stress as catastrophic. Another powerful factor is social support. If you have friends and family you can turn to during a stressful period, you’re more likely to handle the stress well. Social support buffers stress. That’s something most of us know intuitively. Now we’re beginning to understand it biologically. Researchers have identified a hormone called oxytocin that reduces the stress response. According to psychologist Kelly McGonigal, oxytocin is enhanced by social contact and support.

Another powerful buffer for stress is physical exercise. We see the evidence in animal studies. Rodents that are allowed to run are more likely to create new brain cells in response to stress than sedentary animals. I think the same thing may work for people. People who are active respond better when stress comes along than people who are inactive. Physical activity after a stressful experience also helps moderate the effects of stress.

PJ: What do you do when your own life gets stressful?

DK: I’m not the best role model. I’ll find myself writing grant proposals at one in the morning, totally stressed out. I know what I should do. Before I became a scientist, I trained as a yoga instructor. I know I should take a yoga break. But I guess it helps to know from my research that stress can be beneficial, so at least I have a positive attitude. And that plays a big role in helping people handle stress in a healthy way.

Greater Good wants to know: Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?
About the Author

Peter Jaret

Peter Jaret is the author of several health-related books, including In Self-Defense: The Human Immune System, Nurse: A World of Care, and Impact: On the Frontlines of Public Health. A frequent contributor to National Geographic, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Health magazine, More, AARP Bulletin, and dozens of other periodicals, Jaret is the recipient of an American Medical Association award for journalism and two James Beard awards. He lives in Petaluma, California.


Contents

Neutrality of stressors Edit

Stress is a non-specific response. [5] It is neutral, and what varies is the degree of response. It is all about the context of the individual and how they perceive the situation. Selye defined stress as “the nonspecific (that is, common) result of any demand upon the body, be the effect mental or somatic.” [5] This includes the medical definition of stress as a physical demand and the colloquial definition of stress as a psychological demand. A stressor is inherently neutral meaning that the same stressor can cause either distress or eustress. It is individual differences and responses that induce either distress or eustress. [9]

Types of stressors Edit

A stressor is any event, experience, or environmental stimulus that causes stress in an individual. [10] These events or experiences are perceived as threats or challenges to the individual and can be either physical or psychological. Researchers have found that stressors can make individuals more prone to both physical and psychological problems, including heart disease and anxiety. [11]

Stressors are more likely to affect an individual's health when they are "chronic, highly disruptive, or perceived as uncontrollable". [11] In psychology, researchers generally classify the different types of stressors into four categories: 1) crises/catastrophes, 2) major life events, 3) daily hassles/microstressors, and 4) ambient stressors. According to Ursin (1988), the common factor between these categories is an inconsistency between expected events ("set value") and perceived events ("actual value") that cannot be resolved satisfactorily, [12] which puts stress into the broader context of cognitive-consistency theory. [13]

Crises/catastrophes Edit

This type of stressor is unforeseen and unpredictable and, as such, is completely out of the control of the individual. [11] Examples of crises and catastrophes include: devastating natural disasters, such as major floods or earthquakes, wars, pandemics, etc. Though rare in occurrence, this type of stressor typically causes a great deal of stress in a person's life. A study conducted by Stanford University found that after natural disasters, those affected experienced a significant increase in stress level. [11] Combat stress is a widespread acute and chronic problem. With the rapid pace and the urgency of firing first, tragic episodes of accidentally killing friendly forces (“brother” killing “brother” or fratricide) may happen. Prevention requires stress reduction, emphasis on vehicle and other identification training, awareness of the tactical situation, and continual risk analysis by leaders at all echelons. [14]

Major life events Edit

Common examples of major life events include: marriage, going to college, death of a loved one, birth of a child, divorce, moving houses, etc. These events, either positive or negative, can create a sense of uncertainty and fear, which will ultimately lead to stress. For instance, research has found the elevation of stress during the transition from high school to university, with college freshmen being about two times more likely to be stressed than final year students. [15] Research has found major life events are somewhat rare to be major causes of stress, due to its rare occurrences. [11]

The length of time since occurrence and whether or not it is a positive or negative event are factors in whether or not it causes stress and how much stress it causes. Researchers have found that events that have occurred within the past month generally are not linked to stress or illness, while chronic events that occurred more than several months ago are linked to stress and illness [16] and personality change. [17] Additionally, positive life events are typically not linked to stress – and if so, generally only trivial stress – while negative life events can be linked to stress and the health problems that accompany it. [11] However, positive experiences and positive life changes can predict decreases in neuroticism. [17] [18]

Daily hassles/microstressors Edit

This category includes daily annoyances and minor hassles. [11] Examples include: making decisions, meeting deadlines at work or school, traffic jams, encounters with irritating personalities, etc. Often, this type of stressor includes conflicts with other people. Daily stressors, however, are different for each individual, as not everyone perceives a certain event as stressful. For example, most people find public speaking to be stressful, nevertheless, a seasoned politician most likely will not.

Daily hassles are the most frequently occurring type of stressor in most adults. The high frequency of hassles causes this stressor to have the most physiological effect on an individual. Carolyn Aldwin, Ph.D., conducted a study at the Oregon State University that examined the perceived intensity of daily hassles on an individual's mortality. Aldwin's study concluded that there is a strong correlation between individuals who rate their hassles as very intense and a high level of mortality. One's perception of their daily stressors can have a modulating effect on the physiological impact of daily stressors. [19]

There are three major psychological types of conflicts that can cause stress.

  • The approach-approach conflict, occurs when a person is choosing between two equally attractive options, i.e. whether to go see a movie or to go see a concert. [11]
  • The avoidance-avoidance conflict, occurs where a person has to choose between two equally unattractive options, for example, to take out a second loan with unappealing terms to pay off the mortgage or to face foreclosure on one's house. [11]
  • The approach-avoidance conflict, [11] occurs when a person is forced to choose whether or not to partake in something that has both attractive and unattractive traits – such as whether or not to attend an expensive college (meaning taking out loans now, but also meaning a quality education and employment after graduation).

Travel-related stress results from three main categories: lost time, surprises (an unforeseen event such as lost or delayed baggage) and routine breakers (inability to maintain daily habits). [20]

Ambient stressors Edit

As their name implies, these are global (as opposed to individual) low-grade stressors that are a part of the background environment. They are defined as stressors that are "chronic, negatively valued, non-urgent, physically perceptible, and intractable to the efforts of individuals to change them". [21] Typical examples of ambient stressors are pollution, noise, crowding, and traffic. Unlike the other three types of stressor, ambient stressors can (but do not necessarily have to) negatively impact stress without conscious awareness. They are thus low on what Stokols called "perceptual salience". [ non sequitur] [21]

Organisational stressors Edit

Studies conducted in military and combat fields show that some of the most potent stressors can be due to personal organisational problems in the unit or on the home front. [22] Stress due to bad organisational practices is often connected to "Toxic Leadership", both in companies and in governmental organisations. [23]

Stressor impact Edit

Life events scales can be used to assess stressful things that people experience in their lives. One such scale is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, or SRRS. [24] Developed by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe in 1967, the scale lists 43 stressful events.

To calculate one's score, add up the number of "life change units" if an event occurred in the past year. A score of more than 300 means that individual is at risk for illness, a score between 150 and 299 means risk of illness is moderate, and a score under 150 means that individual only has a slight risk of illness. [11] [24]

Life event Life change units
Death of a spouse 100
Divorce 73
Marital separation 65
Imprisonment 63
Death of a close family member 63
Personal injury or illness 53
Marriage 50
Dismissal from work 47
Marital reconciliation 45
Retirement 45
Change in health of family member 44
Pregnancy 40
Sexual difficulties 39
Gain a new family member 39
Business readjustment 39
Change in financial state 38
Death of a close friend 37
Change to different line of work 36
Change in frequency of arguments 35
Major mortgage 32
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan 30
Change in responsibilities at work 29
Child leaving home 29
Trouble with in-laws 29
Outstanding personal achievement 28
Spouse starts or stops work 26
Begin or end school 26
Change in living conditions 25
Revision of personal habits 24
Trouble with boss 23
Change in working hours or conditions 20
Change in residence 20
Change in schools 20
Change in recreation 19
Change in church activities 19
Change in social activities 18
Minor mortgage or loan 17
Change in sleeping habits 16
Change in number of family reunions 15
Change in eating habits 14
Vacation 13
Minor violation of law 10

A modified version was made for non-adults. The scale is below. [11]

Life event Life change units
Unwed pregnancy 100
Death of parent 100
Getting married 95
Divorce of parents 90
Acquiring a visible deformity 80
Fathering an unwed pregnancy 70
Jail sentence of parent for over one year 70
Marital separation of parents 69
Death of a brother or sister 68
Change in acceptance by peers 67
Pregnancy of unwed sister 64
Discovery of being an adopted child 63
Marriage of parent to stepparent 63
Death of a close friend 63
Having a visible congenital deformity 62
Serious illness requiring hospitalization 58
Failure of a grade in school 56
Not making an extracurricular activity 55
Hospitalization of a parent 55
Jail sentence of parent for over 30 days 53
Breaking up with boyfriend or girlfriend 53
Beginning to date 51
Suspension from school 50
Becoming involved with drugs or alcohol 50
Birth of a brother or sister 50
Increase in arguments between parents 47
Loss of job by parent 46
Outstanding personal achievement 46
Change in parent's financial status 45
Accepted at college of choice 43
Being a senior in high school 42
Hospitalization of a sibling 41
Increased absence of parent from home 38
Brother or sister leaving home 37
Addition of third adult to family 34
Becoming a full-fledged member of a church 31
Decrease in arguments between parents 27
Decrease in arguments with parents 26
Mother or father beginning work 26

The SRRS is used in psychiatry to weight the impact of life events. [25]

Modern humans may attempt to self-assess their own "stress-level" third parties (sometimes clinicians) may also provide qualitative evaluations. Quantitative approaches giving results which may correlate with perceived psychological stress include testing for one or more of the several stress hormones, [26] for cardiovascular responses, [27] or for immune response. [28]

The body responds to stress in many ways. Readjusting chemical levels is just one of them. This section includes some examples of adjustments and changes.

To measure the body's response to stress, psychologists tend to use Hans Selye's general adaptation syndrome. This biological model, often referred to [ by whom? ] as the "classic stress response", revolves around the concept of homeostasis. General adaptive syndrome, according to this system, occurs in three stages:

  1. The alarm reaction. This stage occurs when the stressor is first presented. The body begins to gather resources to deal with the stressor. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system are activated, resulting in the release of hormones from the adrenal gland such as cortisol, adrenaline (epinephrine), and norepinephrine into the bloodstream to adjust bodily processes. These hormonal adjustments increase energy-levels, increase muscle tension, reduce sensitivity to pain, slow down the digestive system, and cause a rise in blood pressure. [29][30] In addition, the locus coeruleus, a collection of norepinephrine-containing neurons in the pons of the brainstem whose axons project to various regions of the brain, is involved in releasing norepinephrine directly onto neurons. High levels of norepinephrine acting as a neurotransmitter on its receptors expressed on neurons in brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex, are thought [by whom?] to be involved in the effects of stress on executive functions, such as impaired working memory.
  2. The stage of resistance. The body continues building up resistance throughout the stage of resistance, either until the body's resources are depleted, leading to the exhaustion phase, or until the stressful stimulus is removed. As the body uses up more and more of its resources, it becomes increasingly tired and susceptible to illness. At this stage psychosomatic disorders first begin to appear. [30]
  3. The stage of exhaustion. The body is completely drained of the hormones and resources it was depending on to manage the stressor. The person now begins to exhibit behaviors such as anxiety, irritability, avoidance of responsibilities and relationships, self-destructive behavior, and poor judgment. Someone experiencing these symptoms has a much greater chance of lashing out, damaging relationships, or avoiding social interaction at all. [30]

This physiological stress response involves high levels of sympathetic nervous system activation, often referred to [ by whom? ] as the "fight or flight" response. The response involves pupil dilation, release of endorphins, increased heart and respiration rates, cessation of digestive processes, secretion of adrenaline, arteriole dilation, and constriction of veins. This high level of arousal is often unnecessary to adequately cope with micro-stressors and daily hassles yet, this is the response-pattern seen in humans, which often leads to health issues commonly associated [ by whom? ] with high levels of stress. [31] [ need quotation to verify ]

Cancer Edit

Evidence for a link between stress and cancer is unclear as of 2019 [update] . [32] This can be due to practical difficulties in designing and implementing adequate studies. [33] Research has found that personal belief in stress as a risk factor for cancer was common in England, though awareness of risk factors overall was found to be low. [34]

Sleep Edit

Sleep allows people to rest and re-energise for another day potentially filled with interactions and tasks. If someone is stressed it is extremely important for them to get enough sleep so that they can think clearly. [ citation needed ] However, chemical changes in the body caused by stress can make sleep a difficult thing. [ citation needed ] The body releases glucocorticoids in response to stress this can disrupt sleep. [35] [ citation needed ]

Other effects Edit

There is likely a connection between stress and illness. [36] [ need quotation to verify ] Theories of a proposed stress–illness link suggest that both acute and chronic stress can cause illness, and studies have found such a link. [37] According to these theories, both kinds of stress can lead to changes in behavior and in physiology. Behavioral changes can involve smoking- and eating-habits and physical activity. Physiological changes can be changes in sympathetic activation or hypothalamic pituitary adrenocorticoid activation, and immunological function. [38] However, there is much variability in the link between stress and illness. [39]

Stress can make the individual more susceptible to physical illnesses like the common cold. [40] [ need quotation to verify ] Stressful events, such as job changes, correlate with insomnia, impaired sleeping, and health complaints. [41] Research indicates the type of stressor (whether it is acute or chronic) and individual characteristics such as age and physical well-being before the onset of the stressor can combine to determine the effect of stress on an individual. [42] An individual's personality characteristics (such as level of neuroticism), [17] genetics, and childhood experiences with major stressors and traumas [18] may also dictate their response to stressors. [42]

Chronic stress and a lack of coping resources available or used by an individual can often lead to the development of psychological issues such as depression and anxiety (see below for further information). [43] This is particularly true regarding chronic stressors. These are stressors that may not be as intense as an acute stressor like a natural disaster or a major accident, but they persist over longer periods of time. These types of stressors tend to have a more negative impact on health because they are sustained and thus require the body's physiological response to occur daily. This depletes the body's energy more quickly and usually occurs over long periods of time, especially when such microstressors cannot be avoided (for example: stress related to living in a dangerous neighborhood). See allostatic load for further discussion of the biological process by which chronic stress may affect the body. For example, studies have found that caregivers, particularly those of dementia patients, have higher levels of depression and slightly worse physical health than non-caregivers. [44]

Studies have also shown that perceived chronic stress and the hostility associated with Type A personalities are often correlate with much higher risks of cardiovascular disease. This occurs because of the compromised immune system as well as the high levels of arousal in the sympathetic nervous system that occur as part of the body's physiological response to stressful events. [45] However, it is possible for individuals to exhibit hardiness – a term referring to the ability to be both chronically stressed and healthy. [46] Chronic stress can correlate with psychological disorders such as delusions. [47] Pathological anxiety and chronic stress lead to structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus. [48]

It has long been believed [ by whom? ] that negative affective states, such as feelings of anxiety and depression, could influence the pathogenesis of physical disease, which in turn, have direct effects on biological process that could result in increased risk of disease in the end. However, studies done by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other places have shown this to be partly untrue although perceived stress seems to increase the risk of reported poor health, the additional perception of stress as something harmful increases the risk even further. [49] [50] For example, when humans are under chronic stress, permanent changes in their physiological, emotional, and behavioral responses are most likely to occur. [17] [33] Such changes could lead to disease. [ citation needed ] Chronic stress results from stressful events that persist over a relatively long period of time, such as caring for a spouse with dementia, or results from brief focal events that continue to be experienced as overwhelming even long after they are over, such as experiencing a sexual assault.

Experiments show that when healthy human individuals are exposed to acute laboratory stressors, they show an adaptive enhancement of some markers of natural immunity but a general suppression of functions of specific immunity. By comparison, when healthy human individuals are exposed to real-life chronic stress, this stress is associated with a biphasic immune response where partial suppression of cellular and humoral function coincides with low-grade, nonspecific inflammation. [51]

Even though psychological stress is often connected [ by whom? ] with illness or disease, most healthy individuals can still remain disease-free after confronting chronic stressful events. Also, people who do not believe that stress will affect their health do not have an increased risk of illness, disease, or death. [50] This suggests that there are individual differences in vulnerability to the potential pathogenic effects of stress individual differences in vulnerability arise due to both genetic and psychological factors. In addition, the age at which the stress is experienced can dictate its effect on health. Research suggests chronic stress at a young age can have lifelong impacts on the biological, psychological, and behavioral responses to stress later in life. [52]

Communication Edit

When someone is stressed, many challenges can arise a recognized challenge being communication difficulties. Here are some examples of how stress can hinder communication.

The cultures of the world generally fall into two categories individualistic and collectivistic. [53]

  • An individualistic culture, like that of the United States, where everyone is an independent entity defined by their accomplishments and goals.
  • A collectivistic culture, like that of many Asian countries, prefers to see individuals as interdependent on each other. They value modesty and family.

These cultural differences can affect how people communicate when they are stressed. For example, a member of an individualistic culture would be hesitant to ask for pain medication for fear of being perceived as weak. A member of a collectivistic culture would not hesitate. They have been brought up in a culture where everyone helps each other and is one functional unit whereas the member of the individualistic culture is not as comfortable asking others for aid. [53]

Language barriers Edit

Language barriers can cause stress by making people feel uncomfortable because differences in syntax, vocabulary, different ways of showing respect, and different use of body language can make things difficult, and along with a desire for successful social interactions, being uncomfortable with the communication around a person can discourage them from communicating at all.

The System 1 – System 2 model of Daniel Kahneman (Thinking Fast and Slow) and others would distinguish between automatic responses, such as one's native language would be, and a foreign language that required System 2 work to translate. System 2 can become "depleted" by conscious mental effort, making it more difficult and stressful. [54]

Changes in the home Edit

Divorce, death, and remarriage are all disruptive events in a household. [53] Although everyone involved is affected by events such as these, it can be most drastically seen in children. Due to their age, children have relatively undeveloped coping skills. [55] For this reason a stressful event may cause some changes in their behavior. Falling in with a new crowd, developing some new and sometimes undesirable habits are just some of the changes stress may trigger in their lives. [53]

A particularly interesting response to stress is talking to an imaginary friend. A child may feel angry with a parent or their peers who they feel brought this change on them. They need someone to talk to but it definitely would not be the person with whom they are angry. That is when the imaginary friend comes in. They “talk” to this imaginary friend but in doing so they cut off communication with the real people around them. [53]

Social support and health Edit

Researchers have long been interested in how an individual's level and types of social support impact the effect of stress on their health. Studies consistently show that social support can protect against physical and mental consequences of stress. [56] [57] This can occur through a variety of mechanisms. One model, known as the "direct effects" model, holds that social support has a direct, positive impact on health by increasing positive affect, promoting adaptive health behaviors, predictability and stability in life, and safeguarding against social, legal, and economic concerns that could negatively impact health. Another model, the "buffering effect", says that social support exerts greatest influence on health in times of stress, either by helping individuals appraise situations in less threatening manners or coping with the actual stress. Researchers have found evidence to support both these pathways. [58]

Social support is defined more specifically as psychological and material resources provided by a social network that are aimed at helping an individual cope with stress. [59] Researchers generally distinguish among several types of social support: instrumental support – which refers to material aid (e.g., financial support or assistance in transportation to a physician's appointment), informational support (e.g., knowledge, education or advice in problem-solving), and emotional support (e.g., empathy, reassurance, etc.). [59] Social support can reduce the rate of stress during pregnancy. [ citation needed ]

Stress management refers to a wide spectrum of techniques and psychotherapies aimed at controlling a person's levels of stress, especially chronic stress, usually for the purpose of improving everyday functioning. It involves controlling and reducing the tension that occurs in stressful situations by making emotional and physical changes.

Prevention and resilience building Edit

Decreasing stressful behaviors is a part of prevention. Some of the common strategies and techniques are: self-monitoring, tailoring, material reinforcement, social reinforcement, social support, self-contracting, contracting with significant other, shaping, reminders, self-help groups, and professional help. [60] [ further explanation needed ]

Although many techniques have traditionally been developed to deal with the consequences of stress, considerable research has also been conducted on the prevention of stress, a subject closely related to psychological resilience-building. A number of self-help approaches to stress-prevention and resilience-building have been developed, drawing mainly on the theory and practice of cognitive-behavioral therapy. [61]

Biofeedback may also play a role in stress management. A randomized study by Sutarto et al. assessed the effect of resonant breathing biofeedback (recognize and control involuntary heart rate variability) among manufacturing operators depression, anxiety and stress significantly decreased. [62]

Exercising to reduce stress Edit

Studies have shown that exercise reduces stress. [63] Exercise effectively reduces fatigue, improves sleep, enhances overall cognitive function such as alertness and concentration, decreases overall levels of tension, and improves self-esteem. [63] Because many of these are depleted when an individual experiences chronic stress, exercise provides an ideal coping mechanism. Despite popular belief, it is not necessary for exercise to be routine or intense in order to reduce stress as little as five minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. [63] Further, a 10-minute walk may have the same psychological benefits as a 45-minute workout, reinforcing the assertion that exercise in any amount or intensity will reduce stress. [63]

Theoretical explanations Edit

A multitude of theories have been presented in attempts to explain why exercise effectively reduces stress. One theory, known as the time-out hypothesis, claims that exercise provides distraction from the stressor. The time out hypothesis claims that exercise effectively reduces stress because it gives individuals a break from their stressors. This was tested in a recent study of college women who had identified studying as their primary stressor. [64] The women were then placed under four conditions at varying times: "rest," "studying," "exercising," and "studying while exercising." The stress levels of the participants were measured through self-assessments of stress and anxiety symptoms after each condition. The results demonstrated that the "exercise" condition had the most significant reduction in stress and anxiety symptoms. [64] These results demonstrate the validity of the time-out hypothesis. [64] It is also important to note that exercise provided greater stress reduction than rest.

Coping mechanisms Edit

The Lazarus and Folkman model suggests that external events create a form of pressure to achieve, engage in, or experience a stressful situation. Stress is not the external event itself, but rather an interpretation and response to the potential threat this is when the coping process begins. [65]

There are various ways individuals deal with perceived threats that may be stressful. However, people have a tendency to respond to threats with a predominant coping style, in which they dismiss feelings, or manipulate the stressful situation. [65]

There are different classifications for coping, or defense mechanisms, however they all are variations on the same general idea: There are good/productive and negative/counterproductive ways to handle stress. Because stress is perceived, the following mechanisms do not necessarily deal with the actual situation that is causing an individual stress. However, they may be considered coping mechanisms if they allow the individual to cope better with the negative feelings/anxiety that they are experiencing due to the perceived stressful situation, as opposed to actually fixing the concrete obstacle causing the stress. The following mechanisms are adapted from the DSM-IV Adaptive Functioning Scale, APA, 1994.

Highly adaptive/active/problem-focused mechanisms Edit

These skills are what one could call as “facing the problem head on”, or at least dealing with the negative emotions experienced by stress in a constructive manner. (generally adaptive)

  • Affiliation ("tend and befriend") – involves dealing with stress by turning to a social network for support, but an individual does not share with others in order to diffuse or avoid the responsibility. [66][67]
  • Humour – the individual steps outside of a situation in order to gain greater perspective, and also to highlight any comic aspect to be found in their stressful circumstances. [66]
  • Sublimation – allows an "indirect resolution of conflict with neither adverse consequences nor consequences marked by loss of pleasure." [70] Essentially, this mechanism allows channeling of troubling emotions or impulses into an outlet that is socially acceptable.
  • Positive reappraisal – redirects thoughts (cognitive energy) to good things that are either occurring or have not occurred. This can lead to personal growth, self-reflection, and awareness of the power/benefits of one's efforts. [71] For example, studies on veterans of war or peacekeeping operations indicate that persons who construe a positive meaning from their combat or threat experiences tend to adjust better than those who do not. [72]

The final path model fitted well (CF1 = 1, RMSEA = 0.00) and showed that direct quality of life paths with β = -0.2, and indirect social support with β = -0.088 had the most effects on reduction of stress during pregnancy. [ non sequitur] Other adaptive coping mechanisms include anticipation, altruism, and self-observation.

Mental inhibition/disavowal mechanisms Edit

These mechanisms cause the individual to have a diminished (or in some cases non-existent) awareness about their anxiety, threatening ideas, fears, etc., that come from being conscious of the perceived threat.

  • Displacement – This is when an individual redirects their emotional feelings about one situation to another, less threatening one. [73]
  • Repression – Repression occurs when an individual attempts to remove all their thoughts, feelings, and anything related to the upsetting/stressful (perceived) threat out of their awareness in order to be disconnected from the entire situation. When done long enough in a successful way, this is more than just denial.
  • Reaction formation – An attempt to remove any “unacceptable thoughts” from one's consciousness by replacing them with the exact opposite. [74]

Other inhibition coping mechanisms include undoing, dissociation, denial, projection, and rationalization. Although some people claim that inhibition coping mechanisms may eventually increase the stress level because the problem is not solved, detaching from the stressor can sometimes help people to temporarily release the stress and become more prepared to deal with problems later on.

Active mechanisms Edit

These methods deal with stress by an individual literally taking action, or withdrawing.

  • Acting out – Often viewed as counter-normative, or problematic behavior. Instead of reflecting or problem-solving, an individual takes maladaptive action. [67]
  • Passive aggression – When an individual indirectly deals with their anxiety and negative thoughts/feelings stemming from their stress by acting in a hostile or resentful manner towards others. Help-Rejecting Complaining can also be included in this category.

Health promotion Edit

There is an alternative method to coping with stress, in which one works to minimize their anxiety and stress in a preventative manner. If one works towards coping with stress daily, the feeling of stress and the ways in which one deals with it as the external event arises becomes less of a burden.

Suggested strategies to improve stress management include: [75]

  1. Regular exercise – set up a fitness program, 3–4 times a week
  2. Support systems – to listen, offer advice, and support each other
  3. Time management – develop an organizational system
  4. Guided imagery and visualization – create a relaxing state of mind
  5. Progressive muscle relaxation – loosen tense muscle groups training – work on effective communication
  6. Journal writing – express true emotion, self-reflection
  7. Stress management in the workplace – organize a new system, switch tasks to reduce own stress.

Depending on the situation, all of these coping mechanisms may be adaptive, or maladaptive.

Prior to the introduction of the concept "stress" in the psychological sense c. 1955, [76] [77] people already identified a range of more nuanced ideas to describe and confront such emotions as worry, grief, concern, [78] obsession, fear, annoyance, anxiety, distress, suffering and passion. [79] "Stress" has subsequently become a mainstay of pop psychology. [80] [81]


Boreout

Let’s start on the left in the first zone with low pressure and low performance. Long-term, this low pressure state can result in what Phillipe Rothlin and Peter Werder call “boreout”. Think the opposite of burnout in terms of workload pressure, but with the same debilitating effects.

Boreout can occur when someone is without motivating forces and has no reason to do anything. Imagine just drifting aimlessly, completely bored. It can be fun doing nothing for a while. But sitting watching TV in your pyjamas all day every day is not good for your performance and not good for your health.

Don’t confuse boreout with laziness. Boreout is being perpetually bored because of a lack of challenge.

Everyone needs a minimum amount of pressure to motivate themselves. If a task is too easy, or there are no targets, deadlines or expectations to meet, then performance is usually poor. We rarely get much done unless we have a goal. Either somebody sets our goals for us or we create them ourselves.

Human beings need a sense of purpose in life, just like any other animal does. Ever seen a bored lion pacing back and forth in a zoo? It’s not a healthy state to be in having nothing to do all day long.

For hundreds of thousands of years human survival has been based upon hunting and gathering food, finding shelter, seeking a mate and raising a family. That powerful sense of purpose is hard wired into our genetics. We can’t feel good unless we have a purposeful goal.

You may sometimes find yourself in the boreout zone if your work is repetitive, easy and mundane with little opportunity for social interaction. Even varied work that you see as having little value can lead to boreout.

Boreout sometimes occurs in those who retire. Leaving work without firm plans for the future, or without creating any new motivating forces, goals or deadlines can be a recipe for long-term boredom.

Gardening, volunteering, hobbies, pastimes and helping out with the family can all provide a much-needed sense of purpose. If retirees don’t go after positive pressures, they often end up going back to work. This is not for financial reasons, but to get some structure and sense of purpose back into their lives.

According to a study by the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, nearly 50% of all retirees in the US continue to work part time, or return to work fully, after they have retired.

Remember, everyone is unique. Personality traits, skill levels, experience and particular preferences for certain types of work mean it’s impossible to predict which situations will cause boreout in everyone. So you must look for the signs.

Signs of boreout

Not only do we not perform well with insufficient pressure, the resultant tedium can also be very stressful. The signs of boreout include:

  • demotivation
  • disengagement
  • cynicism
  • lethargy
  • insomnia
  • anxiety
  • depression

The boreout zone is red for a reason. Spending too long in that zone is not a good place to be. Long-term boredom can be very stressful, even though there’s negligible pressure.

What to do about boreout

Managers need to provide a level of challenge that moves team members out of the boreout zone. If colleagues appear to be languishing, consider how you can help them progress, take on new skills and feel more challenged. What can you do to make the job more interesting and rewarding? Can their role become more varied, perhaps? Or could you set challenges that will motivate them?


Where Does Pressure Come From?

There are two kinds of pressure &ndash internal and external.

Internal pressures stem from pushing yourself too hard, or from worrying about your ability to meet others' expectations of you and those that you have of yourself. You might drive yourself to be your company's number one salesperson, for example, or doubt your ability to perform at a speaking engagement.

External pressures come from the circumstances or the people around you &ndash a micromanager, for example, making you work in a certain way, or giving you a hefty workload that exceeds your capacity to deal with it.

Some external pressures have little connection with your job, but the way you react to them can negatively impact how you work. A long commute, illness, financial difficulties, family responsibilities, bereavements, or a dangerous workplace can all weigh heavily on you and affect how you behave.

In extreme cases, you may even feel pressured to take risks, to act against your values, or to take part in illegal activities, such as "massaging" figures to reduce your organization's tax bill. Read our article, When to Speak Up , for advice on how best to handle these dangerous situations.


Augmentation in contingency learning under time pressure

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Miguel A. Vadillo, Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de Deusto, Apartado 1, 48080 Bilbao, Spain (e-mail: [email protected] ).Search for more papers by this author

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Miguel A. Vadillo, Departamento de Psicología, Universidad de Deusto, Apartado 1, 48080 Bilbao, Spain (e-mail: [email protected] ).Search for more papers by this author

Universidad de Deusto, Bilbao, Spain

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Abstract

Recent research suggests that cue competition effects in human contingency learning, such as blocking, are due to higher-order cognitive processes. Moreover, some experimental reports suggest that the effect opposite to blocking, augmentation, could occur in experimental preparations that preclude the intervention of reasoning mechanisms. In the present research, we tested this hypothesis by investigating cue interaction effects in an experimental task in which participants had to enter their responses under time pressure. The results show that under these conditions, augmentation, instead of blocking, is observed.


PSYCH 424 blog

A universal problem grasping the lives of many victims worldwide is addiction. Hiding itself in a variety of different substances and states from drugs and alcohol to food, it takes over individual’s lives and families. Addiction is very complex and deals with biological, physiological, psychological, behavioral and spiritual aspects of a person. It is best to think of addiction as multilayered of disorders, by which compulsive use of the addicting substance is only one of them. Defining addiction is hard enough, so one can imagine how hard diagnosing addiction can be. For this reason, it is left to counselors who are trained and have a vast knowledge of the issue at hand.

Substance Use disorders can be easy to misunderstand and society views drug abuse as being caused by lack of “will”. Even moderate use can affect a person’s mood, mental state, and coping abilities and in ways that can stop therapeutic progress or can develop a more serious substance problem. For these reasons it is important to be familiar with the diagnostic criteria and categories that define substance use disorders. Addiction specialists see substance use disorders as conditions that are influenced by a web of interaction between biological, psychological and social factors that are presented in different degrees in each individual. Social factors include variables such as socioeconomic status, heaving drinking in certain peer groups or subcultures and religious prohibitions against using psychoactive substances. Expectancies about the positive effects of alcohol and other drugs develop through peer influence, adult examples and mass media. These experiences can shape the actual alcohol or drug experience once experimentation has begun. For example, if peer influence prompts you to use drugs or alcohol during parties or different social events, than drinking alcohol or doing drugs becomes part of the inclusion requirement. This can innately be contributed to the social learning theory. Albert Bandura states in the social learning theory that behavior is learned from the environment through observational learning. Reinforcements can then keep the act from continuing. For example, a teenager that begins drinking and begins to feel more self confident or like they are fitting in, will associate drinking with a better image of themselves.

Growing up, a friend of mine would always complain that her parents drank in excess after work every day. They drank to the point of it being a problem and affecting their health. As the years went by, slowly my friend would begin joining her parents and through observed social learning had attributed drinking as a way to cope with the stress of a long day. Gradually, like many within addiction, my friend began losing contact with those who did not enjoy drinking to excess. Her social circle revolved around drinking with her parents and other friends who drank as much as she did.

In many instances, social learning theory can be used for the treatment of addiction. This can be done by incorporating new groups of individuals who have healthier habits into your life, observing and adapting to new positive coping mechanisms and learning refusal skills in response to peer pressure.

Albert Bandura | Social Learning Theory | Simply Psychology. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/bandura.html

Schlosser, A., & Hoffer, L. (2012). The Psychotropic Self/Imaginary: Subjectivity and Psychopharmaceutical Use Among Heroin Users with Co-Occurring Mental Illness. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 36(1), 26-50.

Washton, A., & Zweben, J. Treating Alcohol and Drug Problems in Psychotherapy Practice: Doing What Works. (2006).Guilford Press.

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