Recently in 2. Stress Category

Samantha: Lending a Hand Study

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I found this study very interesting. The results showed that a spouses support reduced the stress and arousal of a stressful or threatening situation and a strangers hand and support is better than no human support at all. I found it very fascinating that we can actually see the biological impact that social support has on an individual. It proves that attachment relationships and strong social support can reduce your stress and improve your biological response to stress and threatening situations. The simple act of hand holding can have a powerful impact between not only ones you have attachments with but with anyone. The results and the information that the article provided can be related to every human social connection that one may have, whether its someone you know or not. It shows we all can have a powerful connection.

While reading many questions arose in my mind. This spring I took a Cultural Psychology class and the information I learned and discussed in that class makes me question different studies and how they may improve and expand their study. I question if they used a more diverse group of people if the results would be the same. 15 out of 16 couples were caucasian. In my cultural psychology class we discussed differences in feminine and masculine cultures. Where countries such as Peru and India see women as the more powerful, secure figure in society, the family and a marriage. The study makes me question if the these couples were studied if the results would be similar, depending if the men were studied or women. Other cultures around the world also have many differences in gender roles which may also change the results.

I also thought about personality: would more independent individuals have less impact when holding someones hand. If men were studied would the results be different or would they be similar?

Stress and Secure Attachment Style

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It is no surprise to me that holding someone else's hand during a stressful time would be comforting and would help to reduce stress levels. Furthermore, it seems obvious that having your closest partner by your side would be more beneficial than a stranger during a time of stress but I think its neat to know that a stranger can also help to reduce a little anxiety still. I can say from experience that support from loved ones has helped me to relax in uncomfortable situations.

Since stress is extremely hazardous to our health it is important to maintain healthy relationships because they can help us alleviate stress, which could in turn provide us with an opportunity for healthier lives. This makes me think about how different attachment styles might also affect our stress levels. I would assume that securely attached individuals are less stressed out and therefore, possibly, healthier than an avoidant or anxiously attached person.

I would like to think that I am a securely attached person, especially if it means that I will have better chances for a healthier life because of it. I generally am but in times of conflict in a close relationship I tend to follow an avoidant attached style and wouldn't that be the time that I need my securely attached qualities most to avoid stress? I am working changing my behavior and this makes me think of my daughter...

I first learned about attachment styles in a developmental psychology class when I was pregnant. At that time I had not yet chosen psychology as my major; I enrolled in it because, aside from fulfilling elective requirements, I wanted to be a great mom and hoped to get a lot of useful information from that course to help me as a parent. We learned about life span development and I recall being particularly struck by the attachment styles lecture because, well, they seemed exceptionally important since they could even affect relationships into adulthood and I wanted my child to have a happy and healthy life. Now, the holding hand and stress study has reinforced the importance of healthy relationships and that I have to be aware of my interactions with her because I want us to have a securely attached relationship and hope that our secure bond will set her up for other positive relationships in life and therefore a healthier life in general since it could lead to less dangerous stress.

The power of social contact-Lending a hand

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The insight gained from the research article "Lending a Hand" by James Coan is valuable, since it confirms that strong relationships do indeed help alleviate stress. Prior to reading this article, it was apparent to me that social isolation and social rejections have a negative impact on the health of an individual. It is interesting that certain regions of the brain and its neural systems become activated during both behavioral and emotional threats. Although we know that certain regions of the brain are linked with reward seeking behavior, the research of Coan explores the reward and threat system involved in marital relationships.

Sometimes holding a hand can provide more than simply a romantic relationship, but rather a sense of comfort and security. The study discovered that neural activation to threat was significantly lower in the spouse condition than in the no-hand condition in certain regions of the brain. It is evident that a strong relationship has a powerful effect on the experience of threat and stress. I found it particularly interesting that the hand-holding of a stranger demonstrated the capability of decreasing the threat to the shock stimuli. The research of this study suggests the importance of health in relation to attachment figures. The quality of a martial relationship has an effect on an individual's immunity and health-related processes.

Although we must keep in mind that the findings of this study may not generalize to all attachment relationships, it does reveal a link between threat and sensitivity to hand-holding. It would be interesting if the study further investigated the type of hand-holding that occurred between the stranger and spouse as opposed to the manner of hand-holding between the marital relationship partners. Perhaps under stress, the hand-holding manner is similar regardless of whether it is a stranger or an attachment figure.

-Sarika Joshi

In Coan's study he examined the effects of hand holding on the interpretation to a stressful or painful situation. He found that a spouse was the most comforting and that a stranger's hand is better than no human support during an electric shock. These finding were not really a surprise to me, since we have had knowledge on the effects of stress on socially equip individuals for a long time. This study did bring a few things that I can relate with to mind.

A little over two years ago i was in a sledding accident. Two of my friends and i lost control on an icy hill and crashed into a parked SUV. I was in the front of the sled and literally hit the trailer hitch with the left side of my face just below my eye. I had never even broken a bone before let alone had to be in an ambulance. My parents had always raised me to be tough and stay calm. I had managed to stay calm and apparently was one of the most polite patients my doctors had ever had in this type of trauma situation. I was transported from a smaller local hospital to HCMC who are better equip to deal with head trauma. When i was settled in a room my mom and dad each grabbed one of my hands to hold onto. I have never enjoyed hand holding but something about this simple intimate act made me feel so much better and safe. Usually i avoid hand holding at all costs, something about it bother's me. On this night it was a welcome interaction. I think that in a stressful or painful situation a little human contact can really make all the difference in how we deal with it. Whether its a physiological chemical change or just a psychological reaction. I think it would have been interesting to see if subject with poor marriages would also experience lower unpleasantness ratings or if the strained relationship would make the situation worse for the subject being shocked.

This study also makes me think about how i deal with the stress in my life. Im not someone who shares their true feelings with everyone. There are a few select people in my life that i can talk about anything with. I usually vent to my mom when I'm feeling stressed out. She has a way of listening without letting me wallow in whatever the situation may be. The other person i vent to is my best friend. I have other good friends that i can about stress and other things with but my best friend is the person i trust with anything and everything. We always seem to be on the same page with things. My mom and my best friend have a way of making me relax and stay on the positive side of things which i usually am but sometimes i just need that little reminder.

The last thought i have about hand holding or stress reduction is about prenatal babies. Often they are taken from there mother's the moment they are born and put into a special room and have no contact with people. Typically the family is allowed to wear special gloves and touch the baby in the incubation box. The children still get that human contact and the family can begin to start that bond with their child. I think this interaction allows the child to start feeling that their parents are a safety to them. Perhaps it even leads to the reduction of stress as the child gets older.

Hand Holdin' Study

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In the current study, participants were asked to hold the hand of a stranger, their husband, or no hand at all. The results of the study did not surprise me. Wives who had a good marital relationship with their husbands did not feel as much pain from the shock due to the beneficial effects of hand holding.
There are so many different variations of this study that I could think of; the differences between individualistic vs. collectivist cultures, men and women, the effects of wives vs. mothers, even the type of test done since, as we discussed in class, an fMRI machine is not all the reliable.
I think that the findings of this study could be used toward elderly populations in nursing homes. The elderly in nursing homes are probably sad, anxious, and stressed about moving to a strange place, having to thin out the memorabilia from their lives, and their perceived loss of control over their environment. Plus, most of the main attachment figures in their lives have probably passed away leaving them without much of a support system. It would be interesting to see how having someone close to the elderly person visit nearly every day would have an effect on stress levels. I wonder how not having someone to rely on during a stressful time, such as moving into a nursing home, effects the life span of an elderly person...


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The finding of this study, that the touch of a spouse is comforting, does not surprise me. I think it is probably well known that being with someone you love will help reduce stress, even if the situation you are faced in is stressful. The principal behind these findings can be applied to many different types of relationships such as the parent-child and friendship type relation.
The finding, that stressful situations can be made less stressful by having someone familiar there to hold your hand, can be used throughout the medical community. The concept for shots has always been to hold mommy's hand and look away, but now we have concrete evidence that doing so will produce a positive result. I think we can also use this finding in childbirth. Women in labor know it is going to hurt, but if they are in a happy marriage with the husband present for the birth to hold hands with, it may hurt a little less. This is strong evidence toward keeping the father in the delivery room to help with alternative forms of pain management.
To continue with the idea of pain management in childbirth, the fact that even the touch of a stranger can be helpful. This is where the concept of a Dula for a single mother can be employed. Dula's are generally nuns who volunteer to be with single mothers and pretty much just be there for moral support during the labor and delivery process and the research presented can provide a strong argument for the implementation of their services. The stranger's touch being utilized to reduce stress is also used in the NICU when parents cannot always be with their newborn, so volunteers will just do skin-to-skin care in order to help the baby thrive a little bit more because there is such a correlation between low stress and overall health.

stress, the Smiths and a little optimism

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After my long day filled with two first day's of class, two over-priced parking payments, a total of two hours of jam packed highway driving, a broken garage, not being able to open the article from moodle and to top it all off, the anxious anticipation of what my mother is going to say when she learns of the broken garage door, it is only fitting that I would have to sit down to read an article on stress. The article isn't just about stress and the harm it causes, it offers up a little solution, a bright light at the end of the tense-back inducing stress tunnel of life. The article says basically, in more scientific terms, that, successful marriages; healthy relationships, can aid in regulating negative and stressful emotions. That a comforting hand from your spouse can relieve stress better than a comforting hand from just a stranger or somebody with whom you have no connection to. I think part of the reason for this is supported by the attachment article the class read yesterday, how a special connection with someone is more beneficial health wise and stress wise than general love. I think that is why the researchers focused on healthy relationships, because anxious attached people would maybe not fully "feel" the support through the hand hold, anxious attached people don't seem to take in positive or believe the love others have for them...Which reminded me of this Smiths song, one lyric goes "The boy with the thorn in his side Behind the hatred there lies A murderous desire for love How can they look into my eyes And still they don't believe me ? How can they hear me say those words Still they don't believe me ? And if they don't believe me nowWill they ever believe me ? "

This article also reminds me of an article I read just last week for my Intro to Personality class...about stress. This article talked about the problems of being a pessimist and the benefits of being an optimist. Optimists tend to lead healthier lives, have better support systems, etc. But what came first, I mean how do we really know that this optimist isn't optimistic because there life is just awesome, they have really great friends and family, they grew up in a house that ate well and in turn learned better eating habits.
I also wonder if it is possible to be a pessimistic optimist, because before today's class, I "knew" I could handle two super speed summer classes, a job, driving to and from home-work-school-home-work-school, and two more months of living with my crazy stressed out mother, but today came and now I'm not so sure. I guess I just have to hold my hand out and wait for my boyfriend to get here to help relieve some of these negative emotions with his super-power healthy relationship hands, until then I guess a little yoga, and Sex and the City might work.

Expanding on the Lending a Hand Research

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In the reading, Lending A Hand by Caon, et al, I would say that the results make sense regarding the hypothesis. It was mentioned earlier that social bonding and soothing behaviors enhance health and well being. In this case, the hand holding of the spouse would lessen the unpleasantness that the women were experiencing. The stranger's hand also lessened the unpleasantness in the women as oppose to when the women held no hands. However, the unpleasantness in holding the stranger's hand is significantly lower compared to the holding spouse's hand.
Regarding the unpleasantness in holding the spouse's hand being significantly higher than holding a stranger's hand, I am curious to as how it would turn out if the women were not told that the hands belonged to their spouse. Would it change their unpleasantness level due to the hand being anonymous even though it is their spouse's hand? I would like to see if the women's level of unpleasantness was influenced by the fact that they know the hand belonged to their spouse and that comforted them mentally. Was it because they felt protected? I think that there may be a possibility of the women showing lower unpleasantness levels if they held another male's hand but was informed that it was their husband's.
In the study, only the women were tested for unpleasantness by holding hands. I would like to see the research turn the experiment the other way around. I would like to know if the men respond the same way towards their spouse's hand. The research shows that women are impacted less by unpleasant levels but are men the same? Will the men's level of unpleasantness be lower by holding their spouse's hand or will it be higher? I ask this because society has the mentality that men are the provider and protector in his family so it would give them more pressure. Would this affect the men and result in higher unpleasantness level since they are supposed to be the one who's comforting his spouse? I think this may result in men showing higher unpleasant levels because they have more pressure on them.

Pang Chang - Lending a Hand

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Coan et. al did an experiment in 2006 in which they studied the effects of stress and hand-holding in married women. Within a two week span, they screened couples who were highly satisfied with their marital life and then proceeded to give the women in these relationships a series of short electric shocks in three conditions: holding her husband's hand; holding an unseen stranger's hands and finally, holding no hands at all, all while hooked onto an fMRI machine.
What they found through this experiment was that there was more stress regulation in trials in which the women held any hand, especially when that hand belonged to her husband. Moreover, it is only when they held the hands of their spouse that they report less unpleasantness along with a decrease in bodily arousal.
While the experiment succeeded at evaluating a person's stress level and perception of pain based on touch and familiarity, there were still several things in which could have helped the study. The first one is the inclusion of couples who scored low on their marriage satisfaction tests. These sets of couples could have helped to further amplify their hypothesis that happy marriages results in higher levels of stress regulation. Or, it could have provided another dimension to their experiment in which even highly unsatisfied couples report less stress.
Another element is that only the females were shocked! The article gave no particular reasoning behind this and it would have been interesting to see the results of the males as well.
This article resonated with me, not because I have been in the exact situation but because I have an immense fear of injection and needles. My body temperature would increase along with my heart rate and then I would break out in a cold sweat.
I remember when I was about to get my sports physical in high school, I had to get a shot. When the doctor came in with a particularly long needle, I panicked and literally started to run around the room, trying to dodge the needle.
Whilst reading this article, I just noticed that every time I get a shot or am confronted with injection needles, my mother is always in the room with me, save for the time I ran around the doctor's lab. She never held my hands (she's not feely touchy with anyone pass elementary school) but her presence and her words took away some of the stress.
During discussion, Jess talked about how she felt less stressed when she knows she is not alone. Likewise, the rats in the maze felt less fear when they had a pair. This made me think that maybe it is just the sharing of the pain or the experience that makes the stressed individual feel better. Of course, like previously stated, it has to be a positive support in which pain or stress is being divided; two stressed out people won't make anything better.

My thoughts about the study "Lending a Hand"

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It was difficult to grasp all the information given in the study, because I'm not that good at neuroscience and there were a lot of jargons associated with different brain areas. Nonetheless I do understand the conclusion that simply holding hands with another human being alleviates arousal in cases of stress, and especially holding hands with a significant other reduces discomfort as well. Interestingly, the degree to which the couple was happy in their marriage affected the amount of comfort the wife received.

The study is indeed fascinating to me in that it again emphasizes the importance of healthy relationships. It also provokes my curiosity; just like the study itself has noted, further research can be conducted on this finding. I assume that most (if not all) of the couples in this study were securely attached to each other, and I wonder if we could replicate the findings with insecurely attached wives. Also, I'm wondering why the researchers excluded couples low on marital satisfaction from the study. I'm sure those individuals would have provided more interesting data to the pool.

Another doubt that I have is that the results might be due to placebo effect. Maybe the "spouse effect" is present simply because the wives think the hand belongs to their husband; obviously, the wives cognitively perceive the hand to be either their husbands' or a stranger's because of the study design. Of course, it would be almost impossible to deceive wives whether the hand they are holding is their husbands' or not. But I'm thinking that maybe if the husband has a twin brother, we might be able to conduct an experiment to further validate the "spouse effect": maybe we can trick the wives into believing that they are holding their husbands' hands, when in fact they are not.

Lastly, this study reminded me a very random piece of knowledge: some of the ancient Greeks had an army unit solely composed of gays, and they were known to be powerful. I was just guessing that there might be some kind of connection with the gay warriors and the result of this study. Since the gay warriors fought in the presence of their significant others, they might have been able to handle stress more easily and be more efficient at fighting. Strange, but just a thought.

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