Psychology Professor Gillooly Honored With Distinguished Faculty Award

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Psychology Professor Jessica Gillooly was honored with the 16th annual Distinguished Faculty Award sponsored by the Academic Senate in a presentation Thursday.

The award ceremony was followed by them honoree’s lecture titled “Stress, Sex, and Survival,” a topic she chose in hopes that it would provide “take home value” and a means to “better understand ourselves and our relationships with each other.”

With some reference to current research from the psychology department at UCLA, Gillooly explained the physiological and psychological responses to stress.

The sympathetic response occurs when we experience a stressor. When in this stage, we experience an increase in respiration, heart rate, and blood pressure. Muscles grow tense and digestion is inhibited.
The body naturally prefers to remain parasympathetic, or relaxed.

But according to Gillooly, we spend most of the time in stress, so much that the body begins to attack itself.
This constant state of stress lowers the immune system, and is a direct cause for the onset of many chronic illnesses.

Gillooly spoke of the general differences between men and women as it pertains to stress and survival. Until recent years, much of the research has been on men.

According to an article in a 2000 issue of the Psychological Review, women had been excluded from research because of having a menstrual cycle. It said “women’s responses present confusing and often un-interpretable patterns.”

Current research indicates that both males and females have a fight or flight response to stress.
However females have hormonal modulators that generally induce a tend-and-befriend response. Gillooly explained that these modulators, oxytocin and endogenous opioids, cause affiliation and affectionate behaviors.

Since men and women are different, we often misinterpret each other’s actions and words.
Females during stress are prone to fits of tidying the environment and consulting other females before deciding a way to work through the stress. Males, on the other hand, tend to have a more sympathetic stress response in which the decision between fright and flight is made through intense internal evaluation.
Social support has proven vital for survival. Research indicates that married men outlive single men. Women, who generally look to others for support, outlive men.

On the topic of sex, Gillooly said that married couples or couples in long-term relationships have sex on an average of two to three times a month, and apparently young adults are having sex less than their parents and grandparents.

Couples in the 1950s reported having sex on an average of two to three times a week.
In the end Gillooly suggested some strategies for stress reduction.

She encouraged meditation or some other form of quiet time, healthy eating habits, exercise, communicating with loved ones, and adequate sleep.