Stress Appraisal Theory

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Building on Selye’s interpretation of stress, Lazarus came up with a transactional model of stress using the concept of appraisal. This appraisal theory must be considered when looking at the potential sources of stress, as due to its subjective nature, not every individual will find the same things stressful. Each person has strengths and weaknesses resulting from a combination of genetic and experience factors. In what is known as a ‘person environment fit’ (Lazarus and Launier, 1978), a stress response is determined by whether or not an interaction between an individual and their environment was interpreted as being stressful by that individual. This is known as primary appraisal. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) identified four ways that a situation…show more content…
For example, results from a study conducted by Spiesman, Lazarus, Mordkoff and Davison (1964) in which participants appraisal to a situation was manipulated using different soundtracks played over a film, demonstrate that it is the individuals appraisal of the situation or event that evokes stress, rather than the actual situation itself. An important aspect that must be considered when looking at appraisal however, is the different sources of stress to individuals. Firstly, environmental causes, otherwise known as cataclysmic events include those which can be intentional or unintentional. Unintentional events such as natural disasters (for example floods, earthquakes and hurricanes) can create astronomical catastrophes and fatalities, creating worry, fear, grief and a huge aftermath that have the potential to affect nearly the whole world (Brannon and Feist, 2007). Individuals may even still experience the effects one year later if severely affected enough by the situation (Adams and Boscarino, 2005 as cited by Brannon and Feist, 2007). However, intentional acts, such as those of terrorism or violence appear to generate more extensive stress than unintentional events. Other environemental factors that can contribute to stress are sudden noises (Glass and Singer, 1972)b2 and crowding. Links have been made between crowding and feelings of control (Hui and Bateson, 1991) and tension, leading to…show more content…
Just as an individual must adjust psychologically to changes in their environment, the body undergoes a series of changes when under stress in order to prepare for a threatening situation. Both the nervous and endocrine systems are involved with the stress response. The autonomic nervous system, found in the peripheral nervous system, has two main divisions: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for “fight or flight” responses, as so called by Walter Cannon (1932), which prepares the body for action. This causes bodily changes such as increased heart rate, an increase in respiration and a decrease in digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system is involved in stabilising the body and returning the body to normal functioning, for example reducing heart rate. It also stimulates the release of the hormone epinephrine from the medulla of the adrenal

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