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How do individual differences influence stress levels?

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How do individual differences influence stress levels? The extent to which stress can affect a person is largely dependant on the type of personality they possess. An individual with a Type A personality is categorised as having aggressive tendencies combined with being a competitive high achiever with a fixation on time management. It is thought that these types of traits lead to increased stress levels and blood pressure, which in turn increase the possibility of developing coronary heart disease (CHD). This theory was tested by Friedman and Rosenman in the Western Collaborative Group Study (1960). They used around 3000 middle aged men that lived in California, and tested them for indicators of CHD before assessing their personality. ...read more.


The experiment also does not take into account that many Type As had a family history of cardiovascular problems, which is indicative of genetic condition that would make them more susceptible to heart attacks. Also when the participants were interviewed the interviewer deliberately tried to evoke Type A behaviour, so there is a possibility that the traits displayed were more of a reaction to that particular context. When follow up experiments were conducted they found no link between Type A behaviours and mortality (Ragland and Brand), and that certain aspects of the personality actually help to protect against stress, such as being in control and commitment. One personality type that negates the effects of stress is the Hardy personality (Kabasa and Maddi). ...read more.


A problem with the research into the link between personality and stress is that it is often done through questionnaires, which do not always provide reliable answers as people may feel pressured to give the most sociably acceptable answer. There is also an alternative explanation to the Hardy personality, as the traits can be explained by negative affectivity (Watson and Clark). People with high negative affectivity show the same characteristics as those with low hardy personality scores, which means people who are considered hardy may just have low negative affectivity. In conclusion the effects of stress are definitely modified somewhat by personality, as there is a conclusive link between cardiovascular problems and high stress levels and it has been proven that certain types of personality cope better with stress than others. ...read more.

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This essay formulates very well-expressed analytical ideas and presents them in a very clear structure. Each point made is well-thought out and cites a relevant piece of research evidence to back up their points. This structure may seem formulaic but ...

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Response to the question

This essay formulates very well-expressed analytical ideas and presents them in a very clear structure. Each point made is well-thought out and cites a relevant piece of research evidence to back up their points. This structure may seem formulaic but this is the best way to ensure all the important information required to gain a high mark is incorporated in the answer. The also candidate makes a good discussion by referring to evidence that supports the idea that stress is caused by individual difference (of which, socio-cognitive, biological and environmental are all considered) and this is good because it does not show the examiner only one part of the candidate's knowledge, but instead a very wide range of knowledge about psychology in general.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis shown here is very good. The candidate makes a very good use of their analytical skills by discussing in detail the extent to which stress is caused by individual differences. The candidate concerns a number of individual differences, and for such a broad approach this is very important. There is a good use of psychological studies and each nicely backs up what the candidate has to say about stress. All in all this candidate can expect to, were this question given a top mark of 12 (quite possibly an Edexcel or AQA question) achieve 4/4 marks for the knowledge and understanding (AO1) and 8/8 for their critical discussion (AO2)

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication here is very good. The candidate demonstrates good English skills and does not make any causes for concern with regard to the spelling, grammar or punctuation. From a Psychology perspective the QWC is also very good, with the candidate utilising a number of psychology-orientated terminology, which shows the examiner that the candidate is proficient and confident at using the language of the professionals when writing their psychology essays.

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