Psych Lecutre Notes
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BM Part 2 Psychology (Using Hilgard's 'Introduction to Psychology') Lecture 1 - The Scope of Psychology (Chapter 1) Main types of psychology: biological (neuroscientific), information processing, clinical, social, educational Concepts of psychology: perception, cognition, actions, consciousness Examples of experimental and psychometric methods The relation of psychology to neuroscience
Psychology can be defined as the scientific study of behaviour and mental processes. Nativism vs. empiricism: nativists believe that human capabilities are inborn ('nature') whereas empiricists believe that such traits are a result of conditioning, learning and sensual input as a child ('nurture'). An English philosopher, John Locke, believed the mind at birth to be a tabula rasa or a 'blank slate' onto which experience writes knowledge and understanding. Most modern psychologists now take an integrated approach to the naturenurture debate. Concepts of psychology:
Perception: the study of how we integrate sensory information into percepts and the study of how we then use these percepts to move around and navigate our environment.
Cognition: attention, thought, memory and language. The process by which individuals make plans and solve problems. Actions arise in order to solve these problems according to a decided plan.
Consciousness: a method of monitoring ourselves and our environment so that we are aware of percepts and thoughts and can therefore generate memories. Also a means by which we can control ourselves and the environment by initiating and terminating behavioural and cognitive activities. Experimental and psychometric methods
Introspection: the recording of one's own perceptions, thoughts and feelings e.g. towards an event or sensory change. Initiated by Wilhelm Wundt in 1879 who combined introspection with experimental changes e.g. colour intensity change. However, introspection is very subjective and even individuals trained in introspection gave very different results to the same stimuli (especially in very rapid mental events).
Free association: Freudian method to bring the unconscious to the surface by patients saying the first things that come into their head. Analysis of dreams: another Freudian method to bring the unconscious to the surface.
Experimental method: an independent variable is altered by the experimenter and the effect seen on the dependent variable where all other variables are controlled if possible. Often the difference between an experimental group (with a condition) and a control group (without a condition) is investigated to see if it is statistically significant.
Correlational method: in some instances, experimentation is not possible therefore the correlation between two factors is investigated. The correlation may be negative or positive and range from 0 (no correlation) to 1 (perfect correlation). However researchers must be careful when attributing cause to one variable.
Observational method: researchers who have been trained in recording behaviour accurately can observe the phenomenon of interest or may use questionnaires or interviews to observe phenomena indirectly. Ethical Issues - the benefits of the research vs. the human costs (embarrassment etc) must be carefully weighed up.
Minimal risk: the risk to a subject must be no more than encountered in everyday life. Can be hard to judge what 'normal' risk is.
Informed consent: participant must know what they are entering into, enter into it voluntarily and know that they can withdraw from the experiment at any time. Can be problems with giving informed consent but not ruining the validity of the experiment with a subject's prior knowledge of what is to be tested. De-briefing can sometimes be used as an alternative.
Right to privacy: information gained from the study about an individual must be kept confidential unless the individual gives their consent e.g. names may be replaced by numbers in published research. Structuralism and functionalism and their replacement
Structuralism: the relation of psychology to the analysis of mental structures. Functionalism: studying how the mind works so an organism can adapt to and function in its environment. Both consider psychology as the science of conscious experience, they just approach this from different angles.
By 1920, structuralism and functionalism were being replaced by three new approaches: behaviourism, Gestalt psychology and psychoanalysis. Behaviourism aka 'stimulusresponse psychology': John B. Watson was the person mainly responsible for the spread of behaviourism and saw that the unit of behaviour was the conditioned response and that chains of these conditioned responses were responsible for complex behaviour patterns. Behaviourism dominated psychology until WW2. Gestalt(form/configuration) psychology: this German psychology was mainly concerned with perception and Gestalt psychologists believed that the relationship between parts and to the background on which objects are perceived as well as patterns formed are important for perceptual experiences i.e. the whole is different from the sum of its parts. Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud was the instigator psychoanalysis and his emphasis was on the unconscious - the thoughts, impulses, motivations and emotions that we are unaware of. These unconscious thoughts are brought to the surface by slips of the tongue, dreams and physical mannerisms. Main types of psychology
Information processing: after WW2, computers became more readily available. Herbert Simon in the 1950s coined the idea of psychology as a range of information-processing systems that could be simulated by computers e.g. memory could be seen as similar to a computer which can convert short-term information to long-term info on the hard drive. With increasing knowledge of the brain and nervous system, neuropsychology also increased as did psycholinguistics with the increase in info about mental structures required to understand and speak language.
Biological: aim to discover the relationship between biological processes and behaviour.
Clinical: clinical psychologists apply psychological principles to the diagnosis and treatment of emotional and behavioural problems e.g. marital/family problems, mental illness and drug addiction.
Social psychologists: look at how individuals interact with their social environment and how beliefs, attitudes and behaviours are influenced by social interaction. This type of psychology overlaps strongly with developmental (factors that shape behaviour from birth) and personality psychology (individual's personal style of interacting with the world).
Educational psychology: aims to evaluate learning and emotional problems which are often first manifest when a child goes to school. Educational psychologists often carry out research and train teachers in advanced teaching methods. The relation of psychology to neuroscience
There are 5 key approaches to psychology: the biological, behavioural, cognitive, psychoanalytic and humanistic (phenomenological) approaches. The latter four all rely on purely psychological concepts such as perception, the unconscious and selfactualisation/growth whereas the biological approach concentrates on the relation of psychological processes to actual chemical events in the CNS. This is often called reductionism due to the aim of reducing psychological notions to biological ones. Most often psychology is explained as a mix of psychological and biological findings - in fact in many circumstances, the psychological view can direct the biological discoveries by discriminating between the nature of different processes e.g. spatial awareness vs. language skill (located in different hemispheres).
Lecture 2 - Introduction to Clinical Psychology: Psychological Disorders (Chapter 15) Schizophrenia, affective disorders Anxiety, phobias, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Personality disorders
Must first consider what is 'abnormal' and what is 'normal'? Abnormality can be classified in four ways and often a combination of all four is used. Deviation from statistical norms: statistically most people are around a mean with some people being abnormally extreme e.g. abnormally tall or short. However is it abnormal to be highly intelligent? Deviation from social norms: i.e. takes into account irregularities in idea of normality - idea that a normal person conforms to social norms. However, social norms differ between cultures and over time. Maladaptiveness of behaviour: when behaviour becomes harmful to the individual or society, e.g. an alcoholic becoming violent towards others, it is considered abnormal. Personal distress: an individual's feelings of unhappiness, misery and distress - most people with mental illness describe being very unhappy. This personal distress may be the only symptom of abnormality - to the outside world a person may appear otherwise fine.
Normality is generally seen in individuals possessing the following characteristics. It isn't that abnormal individuals do not have these characteristics but that they are seen to a lesser extent than in normal individuals. Appropriate perception of reality: normal individuals are realistic in assessing their capabilities and interpreting the world around them. They neither over- or under-estimate their abilities. Ability to control behaviour/urges: normal individuals are able to adapt their behaviour to different social situations and control aggressive and sexual urges. Occasionally individuals may act impulsively or go against norms but they have made a decision to act in such a way as opposed to being unable to control their behaviour. Productivity: normal individuals are able to engage in productive activity to achieve an end goal and are generally enthusiastic and able to cope. Abnormal individuals may have chronic lack of energy or fatigue. Self-esteem/acceptance: normal individuals have an appropriate level of self-esteem and self-worth and feel acceptance by peers. Confident enough to give own opinions whilst adapting to a group situation. Ability to form affectionate relationships: individuals are sensitive to the needs of others and so can form close relationships. Not self-centred and so do not make excessive demands on others. Classification of abnormal behaviour
Initially only two broad areas were considered: psychoses and neuroses. Neuroses: anxiety, unhappiness and maladaptive behaviour that rarely requires hospitalisation. Psychoses: behaviour and thought processes so disturbed that the individual becomes detached from reality and cannot cope with the demands of everyday life, therefore may require hospitalisation.
Now, the largely accepted classification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV) is used in the diagnosis of mental disorders. There are 15 broad categories (under which there are more subdivisions) separated according to specific behavioural symptoms associated with each type of disorder regardless of origins or treatment e.g. Eating Disorders and Sleep Disorders.
Can be problems with labelling individuals but classification does allow easier communication between those who work with mentally ill individuals by comparison of behaviour patterns.
Abnormal behaviour is generally viewed under the vulnerability-stress model which cites the importance of both predisposition and environmental factors.
Anxiety may be either the main symptom or evident as a result of trying to control maladaptive behaviours e.g. phobias or obsessive-compulsive disorder)
Generalised anxiety disorder: constant sense of dread and tension. Symptoms may be: a racing heart beat, inability to relax, disturbed sleep, dizziness and inability to make decisions. If decisions are made, the conclusion is often the source of more worry i.e. 'did I make the right decision?'
Panic disorders: these disorders are generally characterised by panic attacks - episodes of acute and overwhelming apprehension or terror where the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive to produce a fight or flight response to an unthreatening stimulus. Symptoms: racing heart, sweating, breathlessness, muscle tremor and nausea i.e. physical symptoms with cognitive symptoms ('I'm going to die'), behavioural symptoms (freezing, being unable to move) and emotional symptoms (sense of dread and terror). Panic disorders and a history of panic attacks (usually of more than a year) often leads to agoraphobia - a fear of any place where they might be trapped or unable to receive help in an emergency i.e. this may be manifest as claustrophobia (being trapped) or a fear of open spaces (where no one is there to help them). Individuals may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with agoraphobia. Increased likelihood of panic disorders is seen in identical twin whose twin has a panic disorder. Panic disorder thought to be due to overactivity of the fight-or-flight response due to deficiency in the areas of the brain that regulate this response i.e. low levels of serotonin in the limbic system. Remember also the psychological causes. Individuals with a panic disorder are often acutely aware of their behaviour and their response to physical and other stimuli makes them more anxious which causes more symptoms etc.
Phobias: an intense and irrational fear of a stimulus that most people do not consider to be a threat. For a fear to be classified as a phobia it is severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Phobias have been explained by Freud as being due to displacement of anxiety onto otherwise harmless objects but more recently a more accepted explanation is that of the behaviourists that phobias are learned via classical (association) or operant (reward) conditioning. DSM-IV splits phobias into simple phobias (of a specific object/animal/situation), social phobias (of performance in social situations) and agoraphobia.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder: obsessions are persistent intrusions of unwelcome thoughts/images etc which cause anxiety and compulsions are repetitive acts/rituals which temporarily relieve anxiety - the two become interlinked when the thoughts which cause anxiety are relieved (and simultaneously reinforced) by a particular compulsion e.g. the fear of a fire relieved by repeatedly checking that the gas is turned off. O-C disorder can get to the stage where it interferes with everyday life because so much time is devoted to carrying out the repetitive act. Individuals may be 'washers' (e.g. afraid of germs) or 'checkers' (repeatedly checking a door is locked for example). Possibly due to low serotonin levels in areas regulating primitive impulses about sex, violence and cleanliness (frontal cortex - caudate nucleus - thalamus). Drugs that regulate serotonin levels can provide some relief. Remember also the psychological causes. Mood-affective disorders
Depression: when individuals have one or more episodes of feeling sad, lethargic, uninterested in usual activities and demotivated. These symptoms may come to affect everyday life and persist for long periods of time. There may be cognitive, physical, emotional and motivational symptoms of depression such as negative views of self, changes in appetite/sleep patterns, feelings of sadness and passivity. In contrast, these periods of depression may be combined with periods of elation and mania in bipolar disorder (manic-
depression). In bipolar disorder, individuals cycle through these two moods with brief periods of normality in between. In mania the individual is highly energetic, motivated, driven, self-confident, has little need for sleep and makes elaborate plans (normal elation is characterised by less obvious symptoms). Periods of mania without depression are rare.
There are biological, cognitive and psychoanalytic perspectives to the cause of depression. Biological: evidence suggests that depression and bipolar disorder have a different genetic basis from one another. The cause of depression is thought to be deficiency in the number or sensitivity of serotonin and noradrenaline receptors in the areas of the brain involved in emotion such as the hypothalamus. In bipolar disorder it is thought that the receptors undergo poorly-timed changes in sensitivity that are correlated with mood changes. Cognitive: theory that depression is preceded by perceptions of life in pessimistic and hopeless ways. Aaron Beck proposed the cognitive triad: negative thoughts about self, the present and the future. Alternatively some psychologists suggest that individuals blaming themselves for bad things happening ('it's all my fault') are more prone to depression. The psychoanalytic approach suggests that depression is a reaction to loss (e.g. loss of a job/rejection by a loved one) that brings back memories of loss in childhood and so the individual regresses to the helpless state of childhood. Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a group of disorders characterised by a disordered thought process/personality, a distortion of reality and an inability to cope with everyday life. Occurs equally in both sexes in approx. 1% of the population. About half of all mental hospitals and resources are taken up by the treatment of schizophrenics. Onset is sometimes sudden and sometimes gradual. Positive symptoms: hallucinations, delusions, disordered thought. Negative symptoms: lack of motivation, inappropriate emotion, inability to care for oneself.
Schizophrenics suffer from a variety of the following primary symptoms: disturbances of thought and attention: this leads to an incoherent thought process/speech using rhyming words and the juxtaposition of seemingly random words and phrases although individual phrases often appear to have some meaning. Affected individuals often experience delusion (external forces controlling their thoughts/extreme paranoia) and complain of not being able to make sense of all the sensory inputs they receive at one time (they cannot select the important sensory inputs). Disturbances of perception: voices in the head, louder noises, brighter colours, often frightening hallucinations. Disturbances of emotional expression: withdrawn and lack emotion to otherwise sad/happy events or may appear happy when talking of tragedy. Accounts of thought processes suggest that schizophrenic patients are often talking about one thing but thinking of numerous others at the same time therefore leading to seemingly inappropriate responses. Motor symptoms: patients may pull strange facial expressions, enter a manic-type episode or adopt statue-like stances for hours on end in an apparent withdrawal from reality. Reduced ability to function: impaired ability to carry out normal tasks of living and normal social skills therefore often alienating themselves from others or hindering them from holding down a steady job.
Reasons for schizophrenia: biological: complicated dopamine imbalance e.g. either excess of dopamine in the mesolimbic system (leading to enhanced cognitive and emotional symptoms) or lack of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex (leading to decreased motivation, attention and organisation of behaviour). Decreased size of prefrontal cortex and enlarged ventricles (suggesting brain atrophy). Both genetic and environmental influences are suggested. Psychological/social: environmental stressors are seen as effective triggers of schizophrenia in individuals who have a predisposition. Rates of occurrence and relapse have been suggested to be highest in families with high levels of expressed emotion, especially when there is ambiguous emotion towards the affected individual (e.g.
understanding about some symptoms, not understanding about others). It is often seen that individuals with more negative symptoms e.g. lack of motivation are more prone to relapse due to the unforgiving nature of family members towards these symptoms (they are more understanding of uncontrollable positive symptoms such as hallucinations). Personality disorders
Long-standing patterns of maladaptive behaviour to the extent that ability to function is impaired. Individuals have inappropriate and immature ways of dealing with social situations but are not anxious or upset by their behaviour so there is little motivation to change it. Antisocial personality disorder is the most reliably diagnosed.
Antisocial personality disorder: individuals lack a conscience and consider only there own pleasure and so act impulsively for immediate gratification of their own needs. Two characteristics: lack of empathy or concern for others and lack of shame or guilt. Biological factors: some genetic predisposition shown. Low levels of arousability shown in individuals with APD - threat of an electric shock does not cause tension as in normal subjects. Social factors: environments that promote the disorder are required for a genetic predisposition to be realised. Parents of APD sufferers are often neglectful, hostile, violent as opposed to normal parents who are involved in their child's everyday life and know where they are and who their friends are. APD sufferers often have neuropsychological problems as a result of maternal drug use, low birth weight, pre- and post-natal exposure to toxic agents - these result in more irritable, awkward, antisocial children who learn slower and are more likely to develop APD. Personality factors: APD sufferers are generally more violent and aggressive and see such behaviour to be the only way to successfully sort a situation. They will often perceive actions by peers to be purposeful, negative and aimed at them personally (e.g. borrowing a pencil) and react violently.
Borderline personality disorder: major instability of personality - periods of extreme self doubt and grandiose self-importance. Frequent periods of depression, often resulting in selfmutilation or suicidal thoughts/attempts. Others' innocent actions are often misconstrued as abandonment. Dependency on alcohol or drugs is common as a coping mechanism. More common in women with a 1-2% prevalence rate. Psychoanalytic theory: individuals have a poorly developed view of self due to early childhood relationships in which they were discouraged from becoming independent from their care giver - dependent behaviour rewarded and independent behaviour punished. Therefore individuals are extremely sensitive to the views of others. Physical and sexual child abuse has been suggested as a factor in determining borderline personality (maladapted view of self). It is thought that individuals maintain a foothold in real life but rely on primitive defences to their conflicts.
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