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By M. Powell Lawton PhD, George Maddox PhD

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Example text

Personal control appears to be the important modulating factor in these tasks because it tends to reduce the negative and enhance the positive aspects of arousal, thereby changing the balance between sympathetic adrenal and pituitary adrenal activity. While the psychoendocrine effects of control variations have been replicated and extended by numerous laboratories, the relationship between control and responses of the immune system is less well understood and accepted. Two animal studies showed a direct effect of uncontrollable stress on the immune system.

This body of data may well reflect historical effects on perceived control, for Rotter (1975) found that even college students have become increasingly external, as measured by the I-E Scale, over a 15-year period. In addition to cohort effects on control expectations, there is likely to be intra-cohort variability. Such demographic factors as gender, socioeconomic status, education, and race have all been found in some studies to be related to various measures of perceived control, within and across different age groups, including the elderly.

1984). These results strongly uphold the notion that perceived competence to engage in preventive and curative health behaviors increases the likelihood of undertaking and continuing health-enhancing actions. A cognitive mechanism by which control may be linked to health involves the labeling of symptoms. , Leventhal & Everhart, 1979; Mechanic, 1972; Pennebaker, 1982; Schachter & Singer, 1962), and control appears to be one variable that influences the labeling process. When level of perceived control over environmental events is manipulated experimentally, subjects who are given low or no control report more physical symptoms than those who feel more in control (Matthews, Scheier, Brunson, & Carducci, 1980; Pennebaker, Burnam, Schaeffer, & Harper, 1977; Weidner & Matthews, 1978).

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