First year psychology 2015 - 2016

The International School of Prague

Introduction checklist

Does your introduction include the following?

Yes No
An indication why the topic chosen is interesting, important or worthy of study
Some background information and an attempt to place the topic in an appropriate context
An indication of whether the topic has been narrowed to a focus of more manageable proportions
A clearly and precisely stated research question
A clear concluding statement of the thesis and the response to the research question that will subsequently be developed in the body of the essay

Sample introduction 1: the research question is in boldface print.

The concept of “road rage” is relatively new.1 It was only in the 1990s that the media began to focus on road rage incidents, leading some commentators to argue that road rage is a media invention and not a real phenomenon. Other researchers dispute this, however, arguing that the term “road rage” is simply a new label for criminal, aggressive or anti‐social behaviour on the road that is a widely recognised problem and the cause of many accidents.

Road rage at its most serious can lead to physical attacks, but it is more often manifested in aggressive driving or verbal abuse. Surveys suggest that most drivers have experienced some form of road rage, as victim or as perpetrator. For example, the British Crime Survey based on a random sample in 1998 found that over half of all drivers questioned said they had been the victim of some form of road rage ranging from verbal abuse or gestures to being forced off the road or threatened with violence (Marshall and Thomas, 2000). According to one researcher, aggressive driving and road rage worldwide cause hundreds of thousands of deaths every year and damage worth billions of dollars (McDonald, 2002, p.1). Moreover, the problem is set to increase as more people use vehicles to travel and roads become more congested.

Many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and China, have acknowledged the problem of road rage and some have taken measures to help prevent dangerous driving and road rage incidents. Ten years ago the head of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration declared that road rage had become the number one traffic problem (James, 1997a).

This essay will examine psychological explanations of road rage and how they can help in designing measures to reduce the problem and so cut the number of accidents. It concludes that policies that aim to change or affect driver psychology can be useful, but policies to reduce external causes of stress are also needed.

Sample introduction 2:the research question is in boldface print.

The mind and body relationship is an issue that has been acknowledged since ancient times. The mind-brain problem poses the question of whether the mind is no more than a nuisance to our brain processes or whether the mind can, to some extent, influences our behaviour. ‘Dualism’ is the approach in psychology, which stresses the mind and body as being two existing and interconnected entities. According to one of the first dualists, Descartes, the mind influences the body and not vice versa1, whereas the ‘interactionists’ claimed that both the mind and body have influence on one another. Hence, by the means of applying the interactionist point of view, the psychophysiological correlates of stress and illness can be studied. How psychological factors such as stress can lead to psychophysiological effects has been and will continue to be a fundamental topic of research in psychology. It is interesting to investigate the issue of stress and its causes and effects on humans, since stress is copious in our modern society. Therefore this essay intends to deal with following research question: What do we know about the relationship between stress and physiological illness and can we use that knowledge to cope with stress?

Stress, according to physicists, stress would simply be defined as ‘the pressure or force that is exerted to a body.2’ However, according to psychologists, stress is a more complex factor, which is looked upon in terms of ‘the demands it possesses on an organism and how the organism attempts to adapt or cope with the specific demands’3. A definition of stress that has been widely accepted was established by Lazarus and Folkman (1984). According to these researchers, stress is ‘a pattern of negative physiological states and psychological responses occurring in situations where individuals perceive threats to their well-being, which they may be unable to meet.’ 4 Whether stressors are harmful or not depends solely on individuals appraise the stressors and how the mind interprets them (Lazarus, 1975).

It would seem appropriate here to define what is meant by physiological illness. Illness itself is a broad concept, but in general it refers to problems and challenges to the health and well-being of humans5. A physiological illness is any illness in which physical symptoms are assumed to be the direct result of psychological or physical factors6. Eminent studies conducted by Friedman and Rosenheim (1974), Sweeney (1995) and Cohen et al. (1996) focusing on the relationships between stress and its influence on the weakening of the immune system and on cardiovascular disorders, have led psychologists to establish the concept that there is a clear relationship between stress and physiological illness. Furthermore, studies that measure the efficacy of the methods to cope with stress, as such performed by Holmes and Rahe (1978) and Jacob et al. (1977) have also presented support for the view that, specific coping methods such as: social support, biofeedback, meditation and anti-stress drugs, can reduce the effects of stress and thus prevent physiological disorders. To determine what we know about the relationship between stress and physiological illness and whether we can use that knowledge to cope with stress, it is firstly important to outline the causes of stress, which include life changes, frustrations, hassles and uplifts of everyday life. Subsequently, the reactions to stress, which encompass both physiological and psychological features, should be explained, since evidence has shown that they lead to physiological illness. Furthermore, in order to counterbalance stress, there are specific coping methods have been suggested and these methods are devised by the means of using the knowledge that is obtained about the stressors and their effects.