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Social Context of Behaviour

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Social Context of Behaviour

Humans are impressionable; our interactions with others can influence and guide present and future behaviour, which is especially apparent in children. Psychologists attempt to understand the relationship between social context and behaviour to identify cause and effect.

We are particularly interested in specific aspects of social context and behaviour, such as:

  1. Social influence

  2. Language, thought, and communication

  3. Brain and neuropsychology

  4. Psychological problems

Social context of behaviour, group of diverse people socialising, StudySmarterPsychologists attempt to understand behaviour through social context and behaviours, freepik.com/pch.vector

Meaning of social context

The social context meaning in psychology is research that investigates social phenomena. Some examples of things researched in this area include the social environment and interactions among people. Social context can focus on social interactions amongst specific people, such as people from different backgrounds or social situations in specific settings such as prisons.

Social interactions differ in nature between people.

Some people are shy and may have difficulties socially interacting and find social interactions difficult.

This is also the case for people diagnosed with certain mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. However, some people are on the opposite scale who thrive in social interactions.

Research investigating social context attempt to explain how this affects behaviour.

The importance of the social context on behaviour

The interactions humans have with one another guide and influence current and future thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. Research has found that people tend to accept the views of people they resonate with; Tajfel coined this term the in-group.

According to the theory, people are biased towards members of the in-group. They often have discriminative and prejudicial views of people they do not resonate with (the out-group), which shows the importance of social context, as to how we interact with others governs our behaviour and how people act with us.

Examples of social context in pschology

The social context and psychology topics covered are social influence, language, thought and communication, brain and neuropsychology, psychological problems, including sleep and dreaming, criminal psychology, and the self.

Social influence

Social influence investigates how people's views, attitudes and beliefs can change due to the presence of other people. This is an important aspect of psychology as it can help researchers understand why and how people's views can change. Research has found that conformity and obedience have negative effects, including prejudice and discrimination.

Some of the topics covered include:

Language, thought, and communication

Language, thought, and communication explains communication, whether verbal or non-verbal and how this links to communicating with others. Language, thought, and communication also cover comparative research investigating differences between human and animal communication.

Some of the topics covered in this section include:

  • The relationship between language and thought

  • Differences between human and animal communication

  • Non-verbal communication

  • Pre-linguistic thought and pre-intellectual language

Brain and neuropsychology

Brain and neuropsychology cover the brain's structure, how it works, how the brain is researched, and neuropsychological illnesses. These topics are an important aspect of psychology because we need to learn how the brain functions to understand psychological illnesses.

The technology used to measure brain structure and activity has evolved throughout psychology, allowing us to learn more about the brain and how neurological damage in the brain can affect behaviour/ mental illnesses.

Some of the topics covered in this section are:

  • Structure and function of the nervous system

  • Neuron structure and function

  • Structure and function of the brain

  • An introduction to neuropsychology

  • Cognitive neuroscience

  • Use of scanning techniques

  • The effects of neurological damage on behaviour

Social and context of behaviour, psychiatrist treating mental illness in three people in front of a clipboard showing a brain, StudySmarterPsychologists study various aspects of the brain, including issues with mental health, freepik.com/pch.vector

Sleep and dreaming

Sleep and dreaming discuss and explains sleep. Sleep is essential for human functioning and survival. Sleep is known to be the period when the body spends time recuperating. However, it is a little more complex than this. Characteristics and their role can differentiate several stages of sleep.

Psychologists have put forward theories to explain the purpose of sleeping and dreaming.

Some of the topics covered in this section include:

  • Functions of sleep

  • Stages of sleep

  • The function and actions of the brain during sleep

  • Sleep disorders

  • Dreaming

The social context of behaviour

As noted social interactions influence behaviour. Research into the social context of behaviour has found that social factors and others influence the onset and can be used to treat mental illnesses. Social-cognitive psychologists such as Bandura argue that cognitive processes and observing and imitating maladaptive modelled behaviour can cause the onset of mental illnesses.

However, it is important to note psychologists take different approaches to explaining mental illnesses.

Biological psychologists argue that the onset of mental illnesses is due to biological factors such as genetics, dysfunctional neurotransmitters, chemical imbalances in the brain and dysfunctional brain regions.

Psychological problems

Psychological problems build upon the brain and neuropsychology topic. It explains illnesses in terms of different psychological approaches and explanations of mental illnesses. In addition to this, treatment options for such mental illnesses are also discussed.

Some of the topics covered in this section include:

  • Effects of mental health problems on individuals and society
  • Theories of depression
  • Therapies and interventions for depression
  • Theories of addiction
  • Therapies and interventions for addiction
  • Theories of schizophrenia
  • Treatments of schizophrenia

The influence of social context on behaviour

Research into social context attitudes and behaviour has shown that social factors such as sociodemographics (race, age, gender, social class) can influence attitudes, behaviour, and self-perception.

Beck called this the self-fulfilling prophecy. The self-fulfilling prophecy is when an individual is labelled as something by others, the individual then begins to accept the opinion/label.

The self-fulfilling prophecy reinforces the belief and causes the individual to act in that specific way. For instance, if someone is dubbed trouble because they come from a poor background. If the individual is constantly reacted to negatively, their behaviour starts to align with this negative view.

Research into social context attitudes and behaviour can affect behaviour, and research has attempted to use this to explain phenomena such as crime.

Criminal psychology

Crime is a prevalent problem in the world. Psychologists have researched why people commit crimes and if preventative measures can help reduce crime rates. In addition to this, researchers try to apply psychology theories to understand how retribution of crimes can be used to prevent people from committing crimes again.

Some of the topics covered in this section include:

  • Understanding crime
  • How crime is measured
  • Learning theories of criminality
  • Biological explanations of criminality
  • Rehabilitation

The self

This section covers topics in psychology that are researched to help understand more about individuals. Such as factors that influence the type of person that someone becomes. Some of the topics covered in this section include:

  • Concepts of the self

  • Identity and free will

  • Humanistic theory of self

  • Personality


Social Context of Behaviour - Key takeaways

  • Humans are impressionable; our interactions with others can influence and guide present and future behaviour.
  • Some examples of things researched in social context and behaviour include the social environment and social interactions amongst people, focusing on social interactions amongst specific people, such as people from different backgrounds or social situations in particular settings such as prisons.
  • Some social context example research areas are: social influence, language, thought and communication, brain and neuropsychology, and sleep and dreaming.
  • Research into the social context of behaviour has found that social factors, in addition to other factors, influence the onset and can be used to treat mental illnesses. A core topic that is covered in this section is psychological problems.
  • Research into social context attitudes and behaviour has shown that social factors such as sociodemographics (race, age, gender, and social class) can influence attitudes and behaviour, which can influence how individuals see themself and behaviour toward others. The core topics covered in this section are:
    • Criminal psychology

    • The self.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Context of Behaviour

The interactions humans have with one another guide and influence current and future thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour. This shows the importance of social context, as to how we interact with others governs our behaviour and how people act with us.  

Humans are impressionable; our interactions with others can influence and guide present and future behaviour. Research into social context attitudes and behaviour has shown that how people interact with them can affect how they perceive themself and cause them to act accordingly. Beck called this notion the self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The social context in psychology is research that investigates social phenomena. Some examples of things researched in this area include the social environment and interactions among people. 

Social behaviour can come in many forms, however, these forms generally fit into the following types: verbal, and non-verbal, and can also include communication differences between animals and humans

The social context meaning in psychology is research that investigates social phenomena. This can focus on social interactions amongst specific people, such as people from different backgrounds or social situations in specific settings such as prisons.

Final Social Context of Behaviour Quiz

Question

What was the aim of Zimbardo's prison study?

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The aim of Zimbardo's prison study was to see if cruelty from guards was a result of situational or dispositional factors.

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According to Zimbardo's study results which factors contribute to conformity? 

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Situational factors 

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What incentive did Zimbardo offer his participants?

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15 dollars. 

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Who were the participants used in Zimbardo's study?

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Zimbardo's participants were 24 American student males.

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How did Zimbardo recruit participants for his study? 

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The participants were recruited based on whether they responded to Zimbardo's advert in a newspaper. In addition, the participants were required to have no history of incarceration or mental health illnesses. 

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How did Zimbardo assign the roles to his participants?

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Zimbardo assigned the roles at random.

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How did Zimbardo deceive his participants about the location?

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Zimbardo set up a fake prison in the basement of Standford University's psychology department in which prisoners were taken to blindfolded after being 'processed' at a real police station. 

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How did Zimbardo get his prisoner participants to the 'prison'?

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Zimbardo had his participants arrested, processed in a real police station and then taken to a 'prison' which was essentially a basement in Stanford University designed to look like a prison.

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How were the prisoners processed by prison guards at the start of the Zimbardo prison study? 

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The prisoners were stripped, deloused and given robes with serial numbers on them, before being placed in cells.

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How were the guards equipped in the Zimbardo prison study?

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The guards were given uniforms, batons and reflective sunglasses.

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Why were the reflective sunglasses an important part of the Zimbardo prison experiment?

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They took away the humanity of the guards in the eyes of the prisoners. They hid their identities and emotions.

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What happened on the second day of the Zimbardo prison experiment?

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The prisoners tried to rebel, trapped themselves in their cells and verbally abused the guards. One prisoner had a nervous breakdown.

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Why did the Zimbardo prison experiment have to be called off early?

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The experiment had to be called off early because of the appalling and cruel conditions faced by the prisoners, even though the experiment was supposed to run for two weeks.  

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Why was the Zimbardo study unethical?

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The study was unethical because participants could not give proper informed consent as they were not told the true aims and what was to happen in the study before joining the experiment. Furthermore, participants were treated cruelly and suffered both physical and psychological harm. 

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What did Zimbardo conclude?

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Zimbardo concluded that the guard's cruelty resulted from conformity to social norms.

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What is the autonomic nervous system?

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The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating involuntary bodily functions.

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What are some examples of bodily functions regulated by autonomic nervous system?

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Some examples are: heart rate, breathing, sexual arousal, salivation and digestion.

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What are the two important neurotransmitters within the autonomic nervous system?


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acetylcholine (parasympathetic nervous system) and norepinephrine/noradrenaline (sympathetic nervous system)

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The autonomic nervous system is split into what two parts?

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The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system.

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What is the sympathetic nervous system primarily responsible for?


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The fight-or-flight response

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Is the fight-or-flight response related to the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system?

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Sympathetic nervous system

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What is the fight-or-flight response?


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The fight-or-flight response is what is activated when we face acute stress.

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What are some physical signs of the fight-or-flight response?

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Some physical signs are: dilated pupils, pale or flushed skin, fast heart beat and increased breathing rate.

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What is the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for?


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The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for relaxing the body back into a normal state once the stress has passed.

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What are the physical body signs of the parasympathetic nervous system?

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The physical body signs are for example: slower heart rate, decreased breathing rate and reduced blood pressure.

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What's the enteric nervous system?

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The enteric nervous system consist of neutrons limited and confined in the gastrointestinal tract

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What is autonomic dysfunction?

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Autonomic dysfunction occurs when the nerves of the autonomic nervous system are damaged so this can affect the regulation of bodily functions.

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What are some causes of autonomic dysfunction?


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  • diabetes
  • Parkison's disease
  • peripheral nerve disorders
  • certain drugs consumption
  • spinal cord disorders
  • cancer
  • hereditary reasons

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What are some symptoms of autonomic dysfunction?

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Autonomic disorders will at times cause dizziness to the person, this is due to the reduced blood pressure. Some people may sweat too much or not sweat, becoming intolerant to the heat

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What is the main difference between the somatic and autonomic nervous system?


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The somatic nervous system is responsible for voluntary bodily movements while the autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary bodily functions.

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What's personality?

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Personality represents one of the largest and well-known areas studied in psychology. Personality is what makes you what you are, the way you behave with other and the way you perceive certain things.

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Which researchers attempted to develop theories abut personality traits'

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Allport, Cattel and Eysenck

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What's the Big 5 theory?


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The theory suggests that there are 5 main traits of personality which are: agreeableness, conscientiousousness, extroversion, neuroticism and openness.

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Which are the two basic tests used to test personality?

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  • Self-report inventories: this will usually involve test-takers reading the questions and then rate how that specific question applies to them, and reflect their personality.

  • Projective tests: this will involve the test-taker be presented with a random scene or scenario and then they will be asked to interpret the test item.

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What are some common pitfalls of personality tests?

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One aspect could be that deception is always possible when answering questions. Introspection is always needed. Tests can also be relatively long and may take some hours to be completed, which will therefore lead respondents to become frustrated and complete the questions without reading them. Scoring can also be subjective and results may be inconsistent.


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What's the Myer-Bigger Type Indicator?


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The aim of the MBTI is to identify that people will have one of the 16 personality types developed. The goal is also to allow individuals taking the MBTI to better explore and understand their personality type. The questionnaire itself is constituted of four different scales.

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What are the fours scales of the MBTI?

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1 - Extraversion (E) - Intraversion (I)

2 - Sensin (S) - Intuition (N)

3 - Thinking (T) - Feeling (F)

4 - Judging (J) - Perceiving (P)

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What's the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)?


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The MMPI is a psychological tests which will assess personality traits and psychopathology. It is usually administered to individuals experiencing a mental health condition or other clinical issue.

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What are the 16 Personality types?

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The 16 personality factors are: abstractedness, apprehension, dominance, emotional stability, liveliness, openness to change, perfectionisms, privateness, reasoning, rule-consciousness, self-reliance, sensitivity, social boldness, tension, vigilance and warmth.

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How are personality disorders defined?


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ersonality disorders are referred as chronic mental health disorders. Being diagnosed with a personality disorder at first can be stressful but there are different treatment plans available at the moment.

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What are some examples of personality disorders?

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Some well-known personality disorders are: narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

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What can cause a personality disorder?

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It's not absolutely clear what cause personality disorders but research suggests is a combination of genes that the individual will inherit and a series of early environmental factors (such as abuse and neglect experience during childhood).

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What's the goal of the MBTI?

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The goal is also to allow individuals taking the MBTI to better explore and understand their personality type.

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How is Openness defined?


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this trait is related to imagination and insight. People who score high in this trait will have a lot of interests.

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How is extraversion defined?

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his trait will observe individuals that are really talkative, outgoing and assertive. People who score low on extraversion will be more reserved and less talkative.

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What is the purpose of the fight or flight response?

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When encountering threats like predators in the wild our ancestors adapted to mobilise all energy resources to either "fight" or "flight" to survive.  The response allows us to instantaneously take action and survive threats.

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What triggers the fight or flight response?

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The fight or flight response is triggered by threats which can include stressful events.

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What is the function of the autonomic nervous system?

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The autonomic nervous system controls involuntary actions like breathing, heart rate, digestion or blood pressure.  

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What divisions does the autonomic nervous system consist of?

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The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions.

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What is the function of the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system?

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The parasympathetic division acts as a "brake" it is responsible for the "rest and digest" activity, it involves digestion of food, storing energy, slowing down the heart rate and breathing.

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