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Testing a Model of Psychological Stress

Hermann, Margaret G.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Naval Ordnance Test Station, Coping, Emotional Response, Goal Orientation, Motivation, Stress Variables


A model of stress drawn from work by Lazarus and his associates was explored. The model suggests, first, that the more motivated individuals are to achieve a goal, the more likely they are to perceive the goal as threatened when potentially threatening stimuli are directed toward it. Second, the more motivated individuals are to achieve goals they perceive are threatened, the more negative affect they experience. And, third, the more negative affect they experience, the greater are their attempts to cope with it. These three hypotheses were tested in a simulation of international politics in which Ss assumed the roles of national decision makers. Usable Ss were 163 Navy Petty Officers. Each S was instructed to assist his or her government in achieving specified goals. Threats, differing in intensity and decision time, were directed toward these national goals by six experimental situations introduced into the simulation activities. The Ss rated their goal motivation before each intervention and recorded their feelings after each situation. Participation in reacting to the experimental situation was used as a general measure of coping behavior. The analysis used those experimental interventions that the Ss perceived to threaten one of their goals and which aroused high, moderate, and low negative affect. These data supported the first and third hypotheses but not the second. Increases in motivation were not associated with increases in negative affect. Differences in negative affect appeared to be a function of the characteristics of the threat. Related to increases in negative affect were generalization of threat to other goals, a tendency to increase motivation in the threatened goal, and higher post-threat motivation. The implications of the results for the model of stress were discussed.

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