Introduction to Psychology Theories

Introduction to Psychology Theories


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Question One

Psychoanalysis is a set of psychotherapeutic and psychological theories and the related techniques, based on the idea that individuals are not aware of the various factors responsible for their emotions and behaviour. Sigmund Freud is widely credited for his influential role in the development of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis identifies the potential of the unconscious factors to yield unhappiness, which is subsequently manifested via a host of recognisable symptoms, such as problem in relating to others, disturbing personality traits, general disposition or disturbances in self-esteem (Kellerman, 2007). Psychoanalysis is a highly individualised form of treatment that endevours to demonstrate how unconscious factors impact on relationships, behaviour patterns, and general mental health (Kuriloff, 2013). Treatment shows the root cause of unconscious factors, how they have progressed over time, and eventually assists individuals to conquer the problems they encounter (Brenner, 2006).

Psychoanalysis is associated with three components: (i) a technique of investigating the mind, and in particular the unconscious mind; (ii) a therapy of neurosis drawing from the aforementioned technique; and (iii) a new and independent discipline that hinges on the knowledge gained from the use of the clinical experiences and investigation technique. As such, the definition of psychoanalysis is not vague (Kuriloff, 2013). Psychoanalysis therefore refers to a set of psychotherapeutic and psychological theories and related methods, developed from the work of Sigmund Freud. Psychoanalysis is based on certain basic principles. First, forgotten events such as those of early childhood are the key determining factors of a person’s development, as opposed to inherited traits. Secondly, irrational drives often rooted in a person’s unconscious usually mainly influence their mannerism, experience, attitude, and thought process. Thirdly, psychoanalysis delineates the importance of overcoming defence mechanisms to become fully aware of personal drives. Fourthly, emotional or mental disturbances are often as a result of conflicts between the unconscious and conscious, or it could be due to repressed materials, often presenting as depression, neurotic traits, neurosis, or anxiety (Brenner, 2006). Finally, psychoanalysis views therapeutic intervention or skilled guidance as being helpful in bringing the repressed material into the conscious mind, thereby liberating the person.

Freudian psychoanalysis describes described a unique form of treatment in which the analysis patient orally states her or his thoughts, including fantasies, dreams, and free association. This therefore e enables the analyst to deduce the unconscious conflicts that are the root cause of the patient’s character problem and symptoms, and to explicate these with the intention of developing insight to resolve the problems.  Therefore, psychoanalysis enables the analysts to tackle and explain the patient’s pathological wishes, guilt, and defenses (Kellerman, 2007). Psychoanalysis has been criticised by various sources, with some critics interpreting is as a form of pseudo-science. However, the approach still has a heavy influence on the field of psychiatry.

Despite all the influence that psychoanalysis has had over they ears in the field of psychology, there have been criticisms to it from professionals and laypeople alike.  One such criticism holds that its simplistic nature renders it ineffective in explaining the human mind, which is in itself complex (Jung, 2015). Another criticism holds that the theory is sexually unbalanced as Freud overemphasised sex in developing it.

Question Two

Classical conditioning refers to the process of learning new behaviour by association.

For classical conditioning to occur there must be a pairing of the conditioned stimulus (often a neutral stimulus) with the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) (which is usually biologically potent). Repeated pairing yields a conditioned response by the organism to the conditioned stimulus (Carlson, 2010).  There are three crucial stages in classical conditioning: In stage one (prior to conditioning), the UCS triggered an UCR (unconditioned response) in an organism (Kirsch et al., 2004).  In other words, an environmental stimulus triggers an unconditioned or unlearned response/behaviour another stimulant known as the neutral stimulant (NS) is also involved in this stage. This could be an object, place, or person. It needs to be paired with the unconditioned stimulus in order to yield a response.

In stage two, a neutral stimulus (meaning that it does not yield any response) is linked to an unconditioned stimulus. Repeated association between the neutral stimulus and unconditioned stimulus trigger learning. This constitutes the conditioning stage.

The third stage occurs after conditioning in which the CS is linked to the UCS yields a new conditioned response (CR). Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with the dogs is the best known experiment on classical conditioning. Pavlov was interested in establishing what triggered dogs to salivate (Kirsch et al., 2004). Pavlov’s assistant who was responsible for feeding his dogs always wore lab coats. Pavlov observed that the dogs started to salivate every time they saw the lab coats. He thus ran a study that entailed ringing the bells every time the dogs were fed. Soon enough, the dogs would salivate from the sound of the ringing bell. The bell acted as a neutral stimulus which on its own does not yield a response, such as salivation. The food acted as the unconditioned or neutral stimulus and was responsible for the salivation (unconditioned response). Presenting the dogs with the unconditioned stimulus and the neutral stimulus together enabled the dogs to learn how to associate these two. With time, the same response can be realised by the neutral stimulus alone.

On the other hand, operant conditioning describes a form of learning in which behaviour’s consequences (for example, punishment or reward) determines the strength of behaviour (Chance 2008). It also involves “discriminative stimuli” or antecedents which signals behaviour’s consequences and hence controls these. B.F. Skinner has been influential in enhancing our understanding of operant conditioning. He developed a theory that in case behaviour is accompanied by reinforcement, there is a high chance that such behaviour will be repeated. On the other hand, if behaviour is accompanied by punishment, there is a less probability of it being repeated. Skinner carried out his experiment with pigeons and lab rats by providing them with negative reinforcement, punishment, or positive reinforcement in diverse schedules developed to inhibit or yield definite target behaviours (Shettleworth, 2010). The Skinners box consisted of a level linked to a feeding tube. Every time a rat stepped on the level, food was released. Over time, the rats learned to associate pressing the lever with food. In the same way, Skinner through his experiment with pigeons demonstrated a causal relationship between actions and reinforcement.

Question Three

Video games are by far the most popular form of recreational activity for adolescents and children. Gentile and Gentile (2008) describe video games as “exemplary teachers” and identify them as the most effective learning tools available to children and the youth. Therefore, children who play with violent video games are likely to learn and practice violent behaviour. Adachi and Willoughby (2011) reports that exposure to violent video games could promote aggressive cognitions and behaviours in young players. Elsewhere, von Salisch et al. (2011) report that the selection hypothesis (that is aggressive children are far more likely to choose to pay more violent video games) is more potent in comparison with the socialisation hypothesis (namely, that watching violent video games places the children at a higher risk of acquiring aggression issues). Thus far, two models have been proposed to explain the influence of aggressive video games on aggressive behaviours.

A key concern that has repeatedly been raised regarding video games is that most of them are characterised by aggressive components. As a result, there has been a growing concern among scholars and laymen alike that children who are constantly exposed to violent video games tend to be more aggressive (Olson, Kutner & Beresin, 2007). However, such assertions require backing with empirical evidence. Towards this end, social learning theories have emerged to help explain this relationship.

The General Aggression Model (GAM) as proposed by Anderson and Bushman (2002) explains the understanding and acquisition of instrumental aggressive behaviours, as well as the internalizing of beliefs about social behaviour.  The GAM is a dynamic, developmental, social-cognitive model that offers a consolidative structure for advancing domain-specific aggression theories.  The GAM encompasses personological, biological, and situational variables (Meier, Hinsz & Heimerdinger, 2007). The model draws heavily on social learning and social-cognitive theories. Its association with such diverse perspectives has help to enhance our understanding of developmental and learning processes that informs aggressive behaviour. There is a widely held belief that avatars used in digital games could act as social models, and that individuals may acquire behaviours and knowledge structures from them via in-game rewards in the same way as they may learn from humans.  Many scholars who subscribe to the social learning theory opine that games characterised by realistic violence that is not socially acceptable are strongly associated with a deleterious impact on the users. Such an effect is also linked to longer playing times owing to enhanced reinforcement and consolidation of the modelled behaviour.

While research on the study of violent video games in aggressive behaviour is a recent genre compared to other genres of aggressive behaviour, and although only a limited number of studies have thus far been conducted to assess the role of violent video games in aggressive behaviour, we nonetheless, have sufficient research findings that indicate that exposure to violent video games enhances aggressive behaviour (Gentile & Gentile, 2008). Moreover, there is also a causal relationship between persistent exposure to violent video games as the development of serious forms of violence and aggression.

The other model of violent crime is, The Catalyst Model as developed by Ferguson et al. (2009) is concerned with biological dispositions, innate motivations, as well as such other basic environmental factors like family and peer influences.  According to the model, genetic and biological predispositions are largely responsible for the development of an aggression-prone personality.

Question 6

Generally, cognitive psychologists rely on laboratory experiments in an attempt to study behaviour. This is a clear indication that cognitive psychology relies on scientific principles. One of the laboratory experiments that seek to explain cognitive psychology is the one conducted by Loftus and Palmer. Loftus and Palmer sought show that the use of leading questions in eyewitness testimony could distort memory. The laboratory experiment consisted of five conditions, and each participant could only experience only one of these (Eysenck & Keane, 2015). Each group of participants were presented with 7 films of traffics accidents within a duration of between 5 and 30 seconds. The researchers then asked participants to describe the accident as eyewitnesses. The researcher asked participants specific questions, such as the speed of the cars when they (collided/smashed/contacted/bumped/hit) each other?

The wording of the question acted as the independent variable while the speed of the cars as reported by participants acted as the dependent variable. Research findings indicated that the verb used by participants to describe the event affected the estimated speed (Coxon, 2012). This was due to the response-based factors (that is, providing participants with misleading information hence influence their response) or altered memory representation.

Research revealed that the verb showed an impression of the speed of the cars during the time of the accident, and this altered the perceptions of the participants. Put simply, the manner in which questions are asked following a crime could alter eyewitness testimony (Banyard & Flanagan, 2013). The eye-witness testimony case study by Loftus and Palmer is an example of an experiment of cognitive psychology that depicts how the cognitive process could be contorted by other information regarding an event. What this appears to suggest si that memory, other than being just a tape recording, is also a dynamic process capable of influence from diverse events like leading questions.

The eye-witness testimony study also acts as further evidence that memory is a forceful process that transforms to perceive experiences.  A key strength of cognitive psychology is that they tend to be in high control owing to their reliance on scientific experiments (Banyard & Flanagan, 2013). This enables researchers to generate cause and effect. On the other hand, the cognitive approach relies heavily on observation and self report measures and this affects their validity.

Cognitive psychologists hinge on the assumption that behaviour is due to information processing. Cognitive psychologists compare the mind to computers, in an attempt to liken human thinking to the information processing in a computer (Sternberg, 2005). They identify valuable similarities between computers and mind: both are characterised by inputs, memory stores, outputs, as well as a limited capacity regarding how much information may be processes within a given duration of time. In the same way that the information inputed in a  computer and how it has been programmed determines its behaviour, human behaviour also depend on is also determined by (i) access to information form the environment; and (ii) how humans manipulate information. Cognitive psychology stress on scientific methods and this is one of the key strengths of this approach. However, reliance of cognitive psychology on scientific methods has been criticised on grounds that it may fail to reflect real-world behavioural and psychological processes.

Question 7

Schizophrenia is a leading mental disorder of significant importance to the study of mental health. Towards this end, various theories have thus far been proposed to explain its genesis, causes, and the best therapies for its treatment. The psychodynamic theory is one of the approaches that have been widely used in explaining schizophrenia. According to Trepper and Shean (2013), ‘psychodynamic theory is of value in furthering our understanding of schizophrenia’ (p. 231). According to the psychodynamic approach, schizophrenia comes about due to the disintegration of the schizophrenic’s ego. The ego plays the all important role of keeping the id’s impulses under control. More importantly, the ego maintains a balance between on the one hand, the moral confinements of the superego and on the other hand, the demands of the id.

Freud, who was instrumental in popularising the psychodynamic approach, identified certain forms of abnormal upbringing (This is especially the case if child has been brought up by a rejecting, cold, and ‘schizogenic’ mother) as inflexible in the development of a fragile and weak ego (Claringbull, 2011). As a result, such an ego has a limited ability to accommodate the id’s desires.  As the ego endeavours to accommodate the id, it might be ‘broken apart’, effectively enabling the id to assume overall control over the psyche.  Should such a development occur, the individual effectively loses touch with reality because they are no longer in a position to differentiate between themselves and others, reality, fantasies and desires. The psycodynamic theory thus identified the ego as being essential in differentiating between reality and fantasies. Such individuals who have lost touch with reality degenerate to a ‘primary narcissism’ state, and are under the control of their animal instincts. Under the ‘primary narcissism’ state, the individual cannot organise his/her own behaviour. They also resort to hallucinating due to their inability to differentiate between reality and imaginations. The only real strength of the psychodynamic approach to schizophrenia is that it is characterised by face validity namely, that the signs and symptoms manifested by a schizophrenic are not related to childlike behaviour. On the other hand, this explanation to schizophrenia is characterised by several weaknesses. For instance, the theory hinges on abstract ideas such as the subconscious and dreams and as such, we do not have research findings that could be used to support Freud’s work on Schizophrenia.

Other scholars such as Stirling and Hellewell (1999) have opined that schizophrenic behaviour bears no similarities to infant behaviour and hence disputes Freud’s theory. Trepper and Shean (2013) note that psychodynamic theories have come under mounting criticism on account of the “burden of parental blame they imply, as well as the ambiguity of their construct and the respective narrative form of the data on which they are founded” (p. 231). However, positivists argue that even though psychodynamic theories are not dependent on laboratory studies or quantitative studies and are hence not testable in practice, they nonetheless yield testable predictions in principle (Claringbull, 2011).


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