Describe one interaction between cognition and physiology in terms of behaviour.
The example used comes from the IB Psychology Abnormal option with regard to anxiety disorders. The sample SAQ should be awarded full marks. However, remember that Paper 2 IB Psychology examination questions will never be asked as SAQs, you only answer one 22 mark ERQ.
One way in which cognition and physiology interact in behaviour has been seen in studies of panic attacks. Clark (1996) argues that panic attacks are the result of a catastrophic misinterpretation of stimuli. When there is an environmental stimulus - for example, a loud noise - the heart may begin to beat faster in response. This is a result of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, preparing the body for possible fight or flight. When the heart begins to beat faster, the person may then begin to think "why is my heart beating faster?"
Clark's theory is that people whose schema interpret bodily changes as dangerous or "scary," will begin to interpret the increase in heart-rate negatively. This then leads to a further increase in heart-rate, which then increases the concern. This is a positive feedback loop. The physiology affects the cognition and the cognition affects the physiology, resulting in a panic attack.
Telch & Harrington (1992) did a study with a group of university students. Each student was given a written test to see their level of anxiety with regard to health and wellness. All participants took part in two trials. In the first trial, they were asked to breathe room air. In the second trial, they were asked to breathe air with high levels of CO2. The participants were told that the air would make them feel relaxed. In the "room air" group, no one felt aroused, in spite of their score on the anxiety test. However, when asked to breathe in CO2, in the low anxiety group 5% experienced high arousal whereas 52% of the high anxiety group did. In other words, it was the interaction of high anxiety schema and physiological responses to stimuli that lead to the panic response.
panic attack! - It's not pretty
Author: Derek Burton – Passionate about IB Psychology
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