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Study Notes

Biopsychology: The ‘Fight or Flight’ Response - Evaluation

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Here are some key evaluation points relating to the fight or flight response.

  • When faced with a dangerous situation our reaction is not limited to the fight or flight response; some psychologists suggest that humans engage in an initial ‘freeze’ response. Gray (1988) suggests that the first response to danger is to avoid confrontation altogether, which is demonstrated by a freeze response. During the freeze response animals and humans are hyper-vigilant, while they appraise the situation to decide the best course of action for that particular threat.
  • The fight or flight response is typically a male response to danger and more recent research suggests that females adopt a ‘tend and befriend’ response in stressful/dangerous situations. According to Taylor et al. (2000), women are more likely to protect their offspring (tend) and form alliances with other women (befriend), rather than fight an adversary or flee. Furthermore, the fight or flight response may be counterintuitive for women, as running (flight) might be seen as a sign of weakness and put their offspring at risk of danger.
  • Exam Hint: It is possible to incorporate knowledge of the issues and debates in psychology into your evaluation. For example, the above point is linked to the ‘Gender Bias’ topic and therefore you could explore the ideas of androcentrism and beta bias within this evaluation point.
  • Early research into the fight or flight response was typically conducted on males (androcentrism) and consequently, researchers assumed that the findings could be generalised to females. This highlights a beta bias within this area of psychology as psychologists assumed that females responded in the same way as males, until Taylor provided evidence of a tend and befriend response.
  • While the fight or flight response may have been a useful survival mechanism for our ancestors, who faced genuinely life-threatening situations (e.g. from predators), modern day life rarely requires such an intense biological response. Furthermore, the stressors of modern day life can repeatedly activate the fight or flight response, which can have a negative consequence on our health. For example, humans who face a lot of stress and continually activate the sympathetic nervous system, continually increase their blood pressure which can cause damage to their blood vessels and heart disease. This suggests that the fight or flight response is a maladaptive response in modern-day life.

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