Does appraisal influence the stress response

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Does appraisal influence the stress response
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Fig. 10-2 The role of appraisal in stress
Lazarus’s model of appraisal and the transaction between the individual and the
environment indicated a novel way of looking at the stress response – the individual no
longer passively responded to their external world, but interacted with it.
Does appraisal influence the stress response?
Several studies have examined the effect of appraisal on stress and have evaluated the
role of the psychological state of the individual on their stress response. In an early study
by Speisman et al. (1964), subjects were shown a film depicting an initiation ceremony
involving unpleasant genital surgery. The film was shown with three different soundtracks. In condition one, the trauma condition, the soundtrack emphasized the pain and
the mutilation. In condition two, the denial condition, the soundtrack showed the participants as being willing and happy. In condition three, the intellectualization condition,
the soundtrack gave an anthropological interpretation of the ceremony. The study therefore manipulated the subjects’ appraisal of the situation and evaluated the effect of the
type of appraisal on their stress response. The results showed that subjects reported that
the trauma condition was most stressful. This suggests that it is not the events themselves that elicit stress, but the individuals’ interpretation or appraisal of those events.
Similarly, Mason (1975) argued that the stress response needed a degree of awareness of
the stressful situation and reported that dying patients who were unconscious showed
less signs of physiological stress than those who were conscious. He suggested that the
conscious patients were able to appraise their situation whereas the unconscious ones
were not. These studies therefore suggest that appraisal is related to the stress response.
However, in contrast to these studies some research indicate that appraisal may
not always be necessary. For example, Repetti (1993) assessed the objective stressors
(eg. weather conditions, congestion) and subjective stressors (eg. perceived stress)
experienced by air traffic controllers and reported that both objective and subjective
stressors independently predicted both minor illnesses and psychological distress.
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