Application

Models of health applied to Type A. Throughout this chapter, you should be able to make connections between the models covered in the beginning and the material in the rest of the chapter. For example, the work on appraisals and attributional style is an example of the transactional model of personality and health because this work stresses how the person influences the situation by construing or appraising it in certain ways. In this application, we will examine Type A and some examples of how it has been thought about in the ways suggested by the different models.

Early work on Type A conceived of this personality style as a specific pattern of action and emotion that occurred in response to specific events (e.g., frustration; Glass, 1977). This conception fits the interactional model because it assumes that Type A represents a style of responding to or coping with threats and challenges in the environment, and many researchers found this model useful. For example, Glass (1977) showed that Type A persons are sensitive to loss of control and that they cope by exerting vigorous attempts to regain control. The interaction between a category of events (i.e., loss of control) and health is moderated by the Type A person's coping style.

The majority of the research on Type A applies the transactional model. In this perspective, Type A persons are seen to create more severe, more frequent, or longer-lasting stressors in their lives by a particular pattern of thought and action, which evokes such stressors (Smith, 1989). The power of the transactional model is to guide researchers to look for the reciprocal influences of the Type A person's behavior in and way of thinking about the events in their lives. For example, how do Type A persons perceive certain situations, which in turn lead them to show larger cardiovascular responses? Type A persons are known to frequently interpret everyday events as competitions (Smith, 1989) and, so, to respond competitively.

The health behavior model has also been applied in research on Type A. Research with this model looks at the kinds of health behaviors the Type A person is more or less likely to engage in, compared with people low in Type A. Recall the study that found that, among men who had had a heart attack, those who were Type A were more likely to survive, especially after long-term follow-up (Ragland & Brand, 1988). The researchers found that the Type A person plunges into the problem of getting back into shape with the zeal, urgency, and competitiveness that they use to undertake other activities in their lives. Thus, a Type A person is more likely to take up an exercise program, to stick with it longer, to modify his diet, and in general to pursue his new program of health behavior with more vigor and enthusiasm than someone lower in Type A.

The predisposition model has also been applied to Type A behavior. Such persons are thought to be disposed to larger cardiovascular responses to stress than are persons low in Type A. It may turn out that a genetic basis is responsible for making some persons predisposed to such cardiovascular responses and predisposed to develop the hard-driving, competitive, and hostile personality that characterizes the Type A person (Wiebe & Smith, 1997).

Finally, the illness behavior model has also been applied to the Type A personality. Larsen and Kasimatis (1991) have shown that Type A persons are less likely to complain of various symptoms, including colds, muscle aches, and other minor, day-today physical symptoms. They hypothesize that Type As may relate to illness because the Type A person may not notice or communicate minor symptoms and thereby not take action to recover from illnesses.

Application (Continued )

In using the different models to think about how personality and health relate to each other, researchers develop ideas about which variables are important and how they specifically influence one another. The models themselves are not mutually exclusive. That is, they may all be correct, in the sense of leading researchers to find multiple connections and pathways between illness and personality.

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