Mary C. Lees

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Although stress investigators have intimated that decisional processes comprise important precursors to coping activity, there have been few attempts, within the stress domain, to conceptualize coping behaviour in the context of stress-relevant decisional models. In the present dissertation, an attempt was made to evaluate Neufeld's (1982) choice/control model. This model, which was derived from subjective expected utility theory, makes three interrelated hypotheses regarding the determinants of coping propensity and anticipatory stress arousal. Hypothesis One states that the propensity to engage in counterstress activity will be an inverse function of the ratio of the expected value of stress, given counterstress activity, to the expected value of stress, given no counterstress activity. Hypothesis Two states that anticipatory stress arousal primarily will be a function of the lowest of the latter numerator or denominator components. Hypothesis Three states that anticipatory stress arousal will increase, due to decisional uncertainty, as the value of the cost-of-coping ratio approaches one.;The model was evaluated in the context of four interrelated studies. Three studies involved the analysis of self-report judgments of stress and one study involved the analysis of cognitive, behavioural, and psychophysiological indicators of stress. Together, study results provided strong and stable support for Neufeld's (1982) choice/control model across different experimental contexts and different response modalities. Results also revealed three types of stressor situations in which model-relevant hypotheses were not consistently supported. These included (a) "challenging" situations and situations outside the threat domain; (b) situations characterized by the juxtaposition of incompatible response tendencies; and (c) situations characterized by "impact uncertainty". An examination of the conditions under which choice/control hypotheses were not supported suggested that future investigations should be concerned with: (a) the perceptual versus mathematical distinction between the cost-of-coping ratio components; (b) the influence on choice behaviour of changes in stress expectancy judgments over time; and (c) the potentially different components of global stress expectancy judgments and their implications for the variable meaning of the latter. Even in the absence of such investigations, it is argued the model has strong heuristic value in its current, unmodified form.



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