Stress, Anxiety and Coping: The Multidimensional Interaction Model

Article excerpt

Donald O.Hebb Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology as a ScienCe (1997) / Prix Donald O. Hebb pour contribution remarquable a la psychologie en tant que science (1997)

Abstract

The multidimensional interaction model of stress, anxiety and coping processes is discussed and tested. The aim is to advance our understanding of the systematic nature of coping processes in relation to psychological variables such as anxiety, as well as to determine how coping is related to other personality and situational variables, and to physical and mental well being. Coping styles and strategies mediate between antecedent stressful events, and such consequences as anxiety, psychological distress and somatic complaints.

Task-oriented coping is most efficacious in a controllable situation, while emotion-oriented coping is most efficacious in an uncontrollable situation. While avoidance-oriented coping may be initially appropriate as a reaction to stress, in the long run task-oriented coping is most efficacious. A number of laboratory studies assessing the multidimensional interaction model are reviewed. These studies have both theoretical and practical implications, and contribute to empirical knowledge about stress, coping processes, and personality.

Prologue

It gives me great pleasure to be the 1997 recipient of the Canadian Psychological Association Donald O. Hebb Award for Distinguished Contribution to Psychology as a Science. It is doubly delicious because of my past associations with McGill University and specifically with Professor Donald Hebb. I was a student of Hebb in that I took Introductory Psychology and a Graduate Seminar in Psychology from him. Although my undergraduate degree was in Mathematics and Physics, Don Hebb accepted me into the M.Sc. program in Psychology at McGill. He was not interested in how many Psychology courses one had taken but was rather interested in whether a student was capable of thinking and focussing on issues rather than facts. (I might add, parenthetically, that I probably would not be accepted into the Graduate Programme in Psychology at York, my home University, because I did not have the requisite eight undergraduate psychology courses. Now, back to McGill.)

The Graduate Seminar with Hebb on the "Organization of Behavior" was and still is the best Psychology course I ever took. He focussed on concepts, issues and encouraged us to think and to challenge his ideas.

Not only did Don Hebb teach us how to think clearly and concisely, but he also taught us how to express ourselves in seminar presentations. We were limited to 10-minute presentations. At 9 minutes, Professor Hebb would start tapping on the table and at 10 minutes you were history even if you were in the middle of a word. This was a very sobering experience, indeed! With respect to revising papers, he suggested we discard our drafts and start afresh, because none of us could part with our "pearls of wisdom". I must admit I have never been able to do this -- much as I have tried. I had planned a much longer paper, but in tribute to Hebb, I have cut it down.

With respect to Comprehensive Exams, Hebb would contact us by surprise a few days before the exam and ask us to appear. He said he knew that we were frightened, but to calm down. He wanted to know how well we could think and conceptualize; not how well we could memorize.

The "Organization of Behavior: A Neuropsychological Theory" (Hebb, 1949) (affectionately known by us as "The Bible") has provided the foundation for the cognitive revolution in psychology and many aspects of physiological psychology. His concepts of "cell assemblies" and "phase sequences" developed in the 1940s are very relevant today. This book is probably one of the most seminal psychology books in this century and he is probably the most eminent psychologist Canada has produced. I still cherish, some 40 plus years later, the skills, values, and orientations I learned from Prof. …