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Stimulus-Oriented Approach and Response-Oriented Approach

Stimulus Oriented Approach: Stress is regarded as an external force which is perceived as threatening or in other words, any external event or any internal drive which threatens to upset the organismic equilibrium. Response Oriented Approach: Describes how stress is reacted to and how people function under stress. The way it is presumably experienced is inferred from the response made to it. In other words the nature of stress can be best understood in terms of how people perceive and ascribe meaning to stress producing situations, the values they give to the actions and the way they interact with the events. But the drawback is that Input/Output or Stimulus/ Response Approaches ignore ways in which stressors may combine or interact. Eg. Hans Selyes General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) Model.

General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) A three stage model: States that when an organism is confronted with a threat, the general physiological response occurs in three stages:

Stage 1: Alarm Reaction: It includes an initial shock phase in which resistance is lowered, and a counter-shock phase in which defensive mechanisms become active. It is characterised by autonomous excitability, increased heart rate, muscle tone and blood content. Stage 2: Resistance: Maximum adaptation. The bodily signs characteristic of the alarm reaction dissappear. Resistance increases to levels above normal. If the stressor persists or the defensive reaction proves ineffective, the organism deteriorates to the next stage. Stage 3: Exhaustion: Adaptation energy is exhausted. Signs of the alarm reaction reappear and the resistance level begins to decline irreversibly. The organism collapses.

Implications and Limitations of GAS

Implications: Long term exposure to stress is detrimental. All stressors lead to a similar physiological pattern of response. No role of perception has been discussed. Does not mention individual differences. Limitations: In these experiments stressors are usually physical whereas the human organism is not always confronted by such stressors. Social (interpersonal/interactional) factors are major stressors in human beings. These have not been included in this approach. Here responses of the subjects have been assumed to be direct, perceptible and measurable. However the responses of different human beings are always mediated through several layers of cultural and social filters.

Pestonjees (1987) Approach:

He recognised the widely held belief that the concept of stress originated in the field of structural engineering and physical sciences which in due course of time has been adopted by behaviour scientists. He opines that it is natural and healthy to maintain optimal levels of stress and that success, achievement, higher productivity and effectiveness call for stress. It is only when stresses are left unchecked and unmanaged they can create problems in performance and affect the health and well-being of the organism. He has identified 3 important sectors of life in which stress originates: (a) Jobs and the Organisation: Nature of work, atmosphere, colleagues, policies etc. (b) Social Sector: Religion, caste, language, cultural settings etc. (c) Intra-psychic Sector: Intimate and personal zone viz. temperament, values, abilities and health.

BOSS: Burn Out Stress Syndrome (Paine, 1982)

BOSS can lead to atleast four types of stress related consequences such as depletion of energy reserves, lowered resistance to illness, increased dissatisfaction and pessimism and increased absenteeism and inefficiency at work. There are five distinct stages of BOSS: Stage 1: Honeymoon Stage: This accounts for the euphoric feeling of encounter with the new job such as excitement, enthusiasm, challenge and pride. Dysfunctional features emerge in two ways: first, energy reserves are gradually depleted in coping with the demands of a challenging environment. Second, habits and strategies for coping with stress are formed in this stage which are often not useful in coping with later strategies. Stage 2: Fuel Shortage Stage: Feelings of loss, fatigue and confusion, inefficiency and sleep disturbances arising from the individuals overdraw on reserves of adaptation energy leading to increased eating, drinking and smoking. contd...

BOSS: Contd.
Stage 3: Chronic Symptom Stage: Physiological symptoms become more pronounced and demand attention and help at this stage. Common symptoms are chronic exhaustion, physical illness, anger and depression. A sense of fatigue and exhaustion overtakes the individual. Stage 4: Crisis Stage: When these symptoms persist over a period of time, the individual enters a stage of crisis. Escape Mentality develops and he feels oppressed. Heightened pessimism, selfdoubting tendency, peptic ulcers, tension headaches and chronic backaches are other characteristics at this stage. Stage 5: Hitting the Wall Stage: Total exhaustion of ones adaptation energy which marks the end of ones professional career. Some never recover, others may be resourceful enough to tide over the crisis. Rust Out Stress Syndrome: (ROSS): is another phenomenon which is indicative of the stress underload.

More advanced approaches: Interactional and Transactional

Interactional Approach: Interaction between stressors and individual characteristics. Implies that it is not necessary that an individual perceive a stressor as unpleasant or stressful for it to have a negative effect. Usually uses 3 types of measures: Environmental stressors, Intervening variables, Stress outcomes. Eg: Karaseks demand -control model. Transactional Approach: Shifts emphasis from objective stressors and strains to the process by which an individual appraises a situation as stressful. Person appraises situation as stressful-->coping processes-> processes influence persons appraisal --> intensity of the stress reaction. Eg. Lazaruss transactional model.

Lazaruss Interactional - Transactional Model

Lazarus & Folkman (1984):

Propose that the interpretation of stressful events is more important than the events themselves. It is neither the environmental event nor the persons response that defines stress. It is the individuals perception of the psychological situation that defines stress. Stress is a function of the persons feeling of threat, vulnerability, and ability to cope rather than a function of the stressor. Distinguish three kinds of appraisals: Primary appraisal Secondary appraisal Reappraisal

Primary appraisal:
It is the initial evaluation of a situation. 3 possible outcomes: Irrelevant the event has no implication for the individuals well-being. Benign-positive the event may increase well-being. Stressful the situation is perceived as harmful, threatening, or challenging. Harmful: involves actual significant physical or psychological loss. psychological damage that has already been done. Threatening: the anticipation of harm or loss. allows to anticipate and prepare for the future.

Challenging: the event is perceived as stressful. the focus is on positive excitement. refers to the persons confidence in overcoming difficult demands. Secondary Appraisal: Concerned with a persons evaluation of his/her ability to cope with the situation The individual asks 3 questions: which coping options are available? the likelihood that one can apply the strategy. the likelihood that any given options will work: will it reduce stress? Reappraisal: continuous reappraisal on the basis of new information identical to the initial process. may lead to more stress.

Coping Strategies
Lazarus and Folkman (1984) Coping strategies are constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific internal and/or external demands that are appraised as exceeding the resources of the person. Several important elements of the definition: Coping is a process of constant evaluation of the success of ones strategies. Coping is learned as one encounters situations and requires efforts. Coping is an effort to manage. Success is not contingent on mastery, just good enough. It includes: Health & energy Positive belief the ability to cope is enhanced when people believe they can successfully bring about desired consequences Problem-solving skills having specific knowledge or abilities related to specific problem


Social skills ability to get other people to cooperate Social support feeling of being accepted, loved, or prized by others Material Resources Problem Focussed Coping consists of changing the situation redefining the problem looking at alternative solutions evaluating the implications of the alternatives choosing the best one to act on Emotion-focussed coping consists of controlling and possibly changing the emotional response to an event cognitive responses such as avoidance or minimization the goal is to decrease emotional distress often used when the individual feels that nothing can be done about the situation


In other words, Coping refers to behaviours following a stressful encounter designed to help deal with the encounter. These strategies are defined independently of outcome of success/failure. There is also the idea of anticipatory or proactive coping. Trying to anticipate potential problems sees active coping as better than avoidance or reappraisal. Coping can be defined as either state or trait. Personality and coping states: Daily diaries find that personality and coping states are linked. Even within stress transactions people will report levels of positive mood. Positive affect is beneficial Associated with creative problem solving, broadens attention, reduces negative physiological aspects of stress. Coping and positive affect means positive reappraisal, infusing ordinary events with positive meaning.