Exploring Psychology: Person Psychology: Psychoanalytic and Humanistic Perspectives

Chapter 9 is on Person psychology: psychoanalytic and humanistic perspectives. It runs to just under 50 pages and is the fourth exam chapter. The topics here are covered in somewhat more depth in D171 Introduction to Counselling.

This is quite a complex chapter which looks first at psychoanalysis then at humanistic approaches before finally comparing the two.

This harks back to the identity chapter in some ways, looking at who we are and how we got to be that way, focusing on subjectivity and our inner selves in general which is somewhat against the grain of present day psychology’s attempts to become more scientific and objective.

Psychoanalysis is very much dependent on the ideas and techniques of Freud which developed out of the deep self-analysis that he conducted towards the end of the 1800s. From this three broad themes emerge: 1) the importance of unconscious feelings and emotions, 2) their origin in early childhood experiences and 3) the importance of unconscious anxiety and inner conflict (psychodynamics). To explore the unconscious he initially used hypnosis but moved on to free association and dream analysis (which tries to map the symbolism within dreams onto real-life objects [see The interpretation of Dreams, 1900]; there are all kinds of issues with this.). In terms of early childhood experiences, he sees us as moving though various levels of pleasure starting with the oral stage (pleasure from sucking 0 to 2 years), moving on to the anal stage (pleasure from pooing at 2-4) before we reach the phallic stage (from 4 to adolescence) with subsequent relationships incorporating, for example, the oral stage through kissing. Oedipal conflict arises during the phallic stage when boys unconsciously find their fathers to be a source of competition for their mother’s affections but it’s been suggested that this really came from
his Jewish background where his father would have been aloof. His account of female development as a consequence of penis envy seems more than a touch flaky. Moving into adulthood the earlier relationships can exhibit transference to adult ones. Allied to that is the idea of fixation on an earlier stage of development e.g. an over-reliance on oral gratification through being fixated on the oral stage leading to chewing sweets, drinking or talking. Psychodynamics moves us on to the consideration of three levels of self and the conflicts that can arise between the id (the basic desire to satisfy biological needs), the ego (the reality testing perceptual level) to the superego (the moralist highest level) e.g.
the id may want sexual gratification, the ego rails that back from a fear of punishment whilst the superego throws guilt into the mix. This conflict leads to angst, is managed through repression and displacement or projection onto another person. These defence mechanisms to avoid internal conflict are largely unconscious e.g. forgetting to pay an annoying bill, or projection of anger onto a doll for young children. There are variations of psychoanalytic theory 1) varying in the driving force e.g. object relations rather than sexuality, 2) variations in how early childhood develops and 3) the role which society plays.

Humanistic psychology considers more of an existential approach i.e. we exist, are conscious and have choice (autonomy) and allows for personal growth. This is centred on our conscious experience of the events going on around us but is an experience which we generally are unaware of, something that makes it difficult to study. Maslow (1973) picked up on the idea of a peak experience: a feeling of delight, meaningfulness and wholeness. Csikszentmihalyi (1992) picked up on flow experiences, the total involvement in something. Kelly (1955) described personal constructs as the way in which we look at the world, consisting of a range of bipolar aspects (e.g. friendly-cold, stimulating-dull) which he displayed  in a repertory grid for an individual that enabled him to model the way that person looked on the world e.g. if they used happy-sad in a similar way to lively-reserved it might indicate how they related to others. Very rigid constructs would indicate that the individual may have difficulties in relationships. He considered that our experiences are open to reinterpretation: constructive alternativism. Extentialists consider that we have situated freedom i.e. we have a great deal of freedom to choose who we wish to be, albeit situated within a range of constraints; they refer to acknowledgement of this situation as authentic. We all have Frankl’s will to meaning, the feeling of importance in finding a purpose and direction for our lives, through actions, experience, love or fortitude. Moving along, Maslow (1954) introduced his model of needs ranging from physical at the bottom of his pyramid to self-actualisation at the top although there are issues with his selection of people e.g. those making full use of their talents would be likely to devote themselves to this work. Rogers looked more at how we might reach self-actualisation through personal growth. He considered that our sense of self rests on our own experience and our evaluations by others and developed person-centred counselling to get around the problems of conditional evaluations by others and operates by way of unconditional regard. Humanistic psychology takes a holistic approach which encompasses methods such as encounter groups, gestalt therapy (lots of role-playing) and psychosynthesis with current developments such as positive psychology.

How do psychoanalysis and humanistic psychology compare? In looking at subjective experience, psychoanalysis considers the unconscious and uses a lot interpretation whereas humanists considers the conscious and analyses the information e.g. through repertory grids. In terms of autonomy, psychoanalysis considers that we are a result of our childhood experiences whereas humanists consider that we have a lot of opportunity for personal growth and change. To change, psychoanalysis reveals how we got to be at this point whereas humanists consider that we are our own agents in getting here (psychoanalysis would say that without the deep understanding, changes will be superficial). Criticism of psychoanalysis is mainly in terms of it being subjective and non-scientific.

For the exam, the key topics for this chapter are:

Self-actualization
Defence mechanism(s)
Personal constructs
Psychodynamics
Oedipal conflict

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Exploring Psychology: Memory, Structures, Processes and Skills

Chapter 8, on Memory: structures, processes and skills runs to about 50 pages. The second option of TMA4 is based on this.

As well as being of interest to psychology, this chapter has a lot of information that is quite useful for studying in general covering everything from how memory works, the processes by which we remember information and how we go about retrieving that information before finishing up with some illustrations on the effect on people with unusual memory abilities.

Memory is quite difficult to study as we cannot do so directly but rather assume that we have something called “memory” because we don’t need to be constantly told the same information. Conceptually, we break it down into encoding processes, storage processes and retrieval processes. Retrieval processes are further subdivided into recognition (searching for a match to something external) and recall (searching for something stored). Good retrieval cues can help in the recall of poorly encoded or stored information i.e. the three processes are not entirely independent. There are different levels of memory ranging from sensory memory, through short term (working memory few seconds) to long term memory. In remembering sequences, the primacy effect means that you recall the first few whilst the recency effect means that you recall the last few with the ones in the middle being lost if the list is too long. As with all brain operations the study of memory is aided by examples of brain damage and scanning techniques.
So how do these processes work, and what can be done to help them along? Improving the encoding is the first step and this can be done by engaging more levels of processing thus rather than just copy text, you should deepen the processing by considering the meaning of the text (semantic processing) which involves elaborative rehearsal through linking to other pieces of information. Just repeating the information without this interpretation is maintenance rehearsal and doesn’t work nearly as well e.g. test yourself rather than just read the notes. Experiments can be based around incidental learning (where people aren’t told that they’ll be tested) or intentional learning (where they know they’ll be tested) and the generation effect where they’re asked to generate words that rhyme with those on a list which engages deep processing. Repetition of learning helps as Mayer (1983) suggests that the structure of the learning changes with repetition and there’s a spacing effect i.e. don’t revise in one big chunk because elaborative rehearsal is quite tiring. Ebbinghaus found that you forget most early on but after a period the rate of memory loss drops dramatically. Restructuring notes helps by deepening the processing and we tend to cluster recall rather than using free recall.
Methods of enhancing retrieval include context reinstatement (imagine you’re in the situation right now), recalling everything (one memory can trigger another), recalling in different temporal orders and changing perspective. These are based on the encoding specificity principle. There’s indirect access e.g. where you can remember something about a word but not the word itself and direct access where the information is immediately available.
Our ability to construct new memories and retrieve old ones is affected by the knowledge that we already have as illustrated by Bartlett’s (1932) experiments on remembering the facts of a story outside our own culture. This leads on the the experiments on leading questions by Loftus and Palmer in 1974 and the misinformation effect. Bahrick (1975) went on to examine enduring memories showing that some memories can last a very long time indeed through the mechanisms of repeated exposure over a long period as described above. Autobiographical memories are those from our own past and Conway (1996) showed that these included both location and temporal information but are our interpretations of the events rather than being strictly accurate. Linton (1982) looked at diary studies and found that memories of real-life events fade at around 5% per year; oddly the importance of the event did not dictate whether or not it was remembered.
Flashbulb memories are autobiographical memories around striking events e.g. the death of Kennedy for those for whom this was particularly relevant i.e. Americans. Collective memories can be created within families recalling the events early in the life of one of the children for example and which can later be adopted by that child as things which they believe that they remember.
Everyone doesn’t remember in the same way and impairments recognise that there is a localisation of function. This can also help identify episodic memory which can be affected by damage to the hippocampus showing that there is episodic and semantic memory. There’s also a separate procedural memory function which usually isn’t consciously available. At the other extreme, there are mnemonists who can remember lots of things and synaesthesia where someone can, for example, hear colours or see
sounds.

For the exam, the key topics for this chapter are:
Autobiographical memory
Flashbulb memory
Encoding
Specificity principle
Episodic memory
Levels of processing
Collective memories

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Exploring Psychology: Perceiving and Understanding

Chapter 7, on Perceiving and understanding the social world runs to about 50 pages and
starts the second volume of the first book. The first option of TMA4 is based on this.
There’s a change in emphasis in this chapter from considering the individual in isolation to looking at their interactions within society. It starts off with looking at how our knowledge shapes our view of the world, moving on to consider common-sense explanations of behaviour, then considering how accurately we use information in forming judgements, finishing off with a look at how different groups judge the risk of HIV/AIDS. This area looks at the attitudes that people hold and the attributions that they assign even to abstract objects like the box and circle animations that Heider and Simmel (1944) used which goes to show how greatly simplified experimental social psychology experiments can be yet still retain ecological validity.
Our knowledge of the world is viewed in light of the schemas which which we use to organise that knowledge and simplify our processing of it. Thus we see someone dressed in a particular manner and attribute them with all kinds of properties by way of schematic processing that may not apply to that individual (i.e. we generalise from our person schema). Similarly we also have event schemas (scripts) which we use to interpret sequences of events. This reduces the workload through simplification and reduces the issues of bottlenecks discussed in the previous chapter but can distort our view of reality and creates stereotypes e.g. rich children are judged as more bright and poor ones are judged as less bright yet there is a significant overlap in ability between the two groups (Darley and Gross 1983). Moreover, we tend to act as a cognitive miser i.e. using the minimum amount of information to come to a conclusion i.e. we use stereotypes but this depends on our motivation to be accurate e.g. Ruscher (2000) found that we seek out more information about someone when our success is dependent on them. Whilst we can be a motivated tactician, there is a degree of automaticity normally.
Attribution theories consider that when we attribute a cause to behaviour this is made up of internal/dispositional causes (i.e. within the person) and external/situational causes (i.e. in the environment). In general, internal causes are more useful as they apply to that person generally whereas external causes only apply in that situation. Kelley (1967) considered that we look at consistency (of that behaviour by that person), distinctiveness and consensus (does everyone else do that). So low consensus with low distinctiveness is attributed to an internal cause but high consensus with high distinctiveness is attributed to an external cause. Tests of this can be done using vignettes. We tend to favour internal attributions for others (the fundamental attribution error) but external causes to our own behaviour. However, we also have a self-serving bias in that we attribute our successes to internal causes but our failures to external ones. Why this should be so may be due to cognitive bias i.e. that we’ve worked hard so expect to succeed so failure is due to an external cause but there may be a motivational bias due to self-esteem and desire to present ourselves in the best possible light (people with high self-esteem tend to make more self-serving attributions than those with low self-esteem [Shrauger 1975]) but…
someone with high self-esteem would be more likely to expect to succeed.
In making judgements, we tend to make the judgement in light of the distribution of information which we have (availability heuristic) i.e. we assume that the new case is in proportion to the information which we have heard about in that area before or about a type of person before (representativeness heuristic). The level of calibration varies i.e. some people can judge what they don’t know better than others. In terms of risk, people in general feel that bad things won’t happen to them i.e. there is an optimistic bias (everyone thinks that they drive better than average). HIV/AIDS studies illustrate most of the above. Thus people consider that they are less likely than average to catch it even if they are in a high risk group, they attribute the causes to things outside their group (e.g. Africans blame western behaviours, westerners blame the Africans).
For the exam, the key topics for this chapter are:

Attribution theory
Schema
Stereotype
Self-serving bias
19 Of

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Exploring Psychology: Perception and Attention

Chapter 6, on Perception and attention runs to about 50 pages and starts the second volume of the first book. This is the third of the part 2 exam chapters but TMA3 also uses the background theory provided here.

This chapter starts starts by considering how the bottom-up information coming from our senses (i.e. sensations) direct our attention and then follows on to look at how these are perceived as top-down information in our brain. Thus the pattern of light and dark remained the same yet our perception of it changed this into the cow that we perceived later when the additional cues were added. How we perceive a journey is both in general terms (semantic memory) and the instance of a particular journey (episodic memory) hence we may know what usually happens on the way to work yet may not recall the specific details of the journey today.

Attention is the process by which we allocate cognitive processing resources. We tend not to notice everything (e.g. the change in the person asking directions) and Kahneman (1973) suggests that we have a limited-capacity central processor i.e. that we have a limited capacity attention. However, there appear to be more specialised processing units around as Navon and Gopher (1979) found in their multiple-resources theory of attention. Whatever their number, Posner (1980) recognised that there is still a limited capacity and therefore our attention is directed in the manner of an attentional spotlight which acts to reduce the amount of processing undertaken (albeit this selective attention means that we ignore things outside the spotlight). This spotlight acts in the form of attentional tunnelling when there’s too much to consider and we are forced to ignore things or stimulus-induced shifts of attention (e.g. a loud bang). Broadbent (1954) suggested a bottleneck theory of attention that reduced the amount of information early on thus allowing for the limited processing power, the snag with this being that it doesn’t allow for contextual processing at higher levels of perception and in practice it appears that where the filtering is applied varies depending on the processing load. This all presupposes that everything is conscious i.e. that they are controlled processes but there are also automatic processes which avoid the issues around the limited processing capacity but at the expense of losing the detail. The Stroop test is one example of this and hence people find it difficult to read the colour when the word printed is at odds with the colour that it is printed in.

As with attention, there are a number of different theories of perception. The chapter first looks at Gregory’s (1966) constructivist theory of perception which considers that as we don’t use all of the sensory information to begin with, we are therefore assembling our perception from incomplete information and in doing so we construct hypotheses that are subsequently proven or disproven as more information arrives. This explains a number of optical illusions and the way that those in different cultures perceive these but it is not a complete explanation. Gibson’s (1950) idea of direct perception considers that everything is already there in the sensory information and that we perceive the world as a whole and moreover that we perceive it dynamically rather than as a series of static images (e.g. most visual illusions only work as static images); no hypotheses are required.

Phenomenological experience considers the whole area of perception to be a fusion of our prior experience, our current understanding and the context and tries to understand not only how we perceive things but what the experience of perception is like (e.g. a cube is a building block to a child but a dice to a gambler). Images are considered as consisting of a figure and ground (the background). Gestalt  psychology considers the identification of whole objects and challenges the idea of an attentional  spotlight.

In the real world there’s a lot of research in, for example, traffic collisions considering such things as the sensory conspicuity (will it flash out at you) and attention conspicuity (will you actually notice it).

For the exam, the key topics for this chapter are:

Attentional spotlight
Bottleneck theories of attention
Topdown processing
Limited capacity attention

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

DXR222 Exploring Psychology Project: Day 7

As usual with the final day there was lot of packing going on before breakfast.

The first task was to organise a group presentation of our results which went surprisingly well as indeed did the ur presentation to three other groups. Breaking the presentations into smaller units made for a much more satisfying pace to the morning.

The final presentation by the tutors was a mix of the serious and the comical. It was a little sad too as this was the final presentation of the module after what has been decades for some of the he tutors.

After that it was time for farewells before we went our separate ways. In my case it’s a very long drawn out trip that’ll take getting on for ten hours due mainly to a lot of sitting around between legs of the journey.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.
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