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Psychological perspectives Essay

The brain is a super computer with a complicated network of neurones subserving many of the activities of our daily life. Many of us are unaware of the various interconnected processes that work in unison to let us lead a simple uncomplicated life. Only when someone is ill or not normal do we feel the messing up of a great system. Cognitive function is the intellectual process by which a person becomes aware of, perceives or comprehends ideas.

Recognition, conception, sensing, thinking, reasoning, remembering and imagining all come under cognitive functions ( Parayannis, 2000) Behaviour, being emotional or angry are other features of cognitive functions of the brain. They are all related to specific centers or regions of the brain. Injury in the form of trauma or illnesses leads to various cognitive impairments. Summarizing I would deign to declare that each of us is what our brains would want us to be. The combinations and permutations of the neurones decide our personality, skills, talents, feelings, behavior and responses.

However we are aware of the fact only in the case of damage to one or more areas of the brain. The theme I shall discuss in my paper is “ Psychological perspectives”. I have selected four chapters from this course which I believe should carry the message of the enigma that is the brain and the emotions that are attached for a social set up. They are Memory System (Chapter 8), Cerebral Cortex and the Lobes of the brain( Chapter 2), Aggression and Prosocial Behaviour (Chapter 16 ) and Social Development (Chapter 3). Memory Memory is of three kinds: sensory, short-term and long-term.

Sensory memory depends on auditory, visual and visuo spatial functions . Both cerebral hemispheres are involved in analyzing sensory data, performing memory functions, learning new information, forming thoughts and making decisions (Parayannis, 2000). The left takes care of the sequential analysis. New information is systematically and logically interpreted. Symbolic information like language, mathematics, abstraction and memory is also dealt with. Memory is stored in a language format. The right hemisphere deals with the interpretation of multiple sensory inputs and here memory is stored as auditory, visual and spatial functions.

One’s environment is understood. The interpretation of dancing and gymnastics are possible through the right hemisphere functions. Short term memory holds small amounts of information. Selective attention is involved. Everything that we see or hear is not stored. Short term memory is sensitive to interruption or interference. combined with other mental processes, short term memory forms an area of working memory which we use to do our thinking with. This behaves like a scratchpad. When we tackle arithmetic, do a puzzle, prepare a meal or read something, we are using our working memory.

Information that has to be stored for long is possible due to long term memory which is also a function of the brain. The area which holds infinite amounts of information can never run out of ‘space’. A person’s educational caliber is supported by this long term memory which is encoded in terms of meaning and importance. Our daily activities are enabled by dual memory comprising of short term and long term memory. When we have an information which we used (short-term) but is not required for the time being, we store it in our long term memory and retrieve it when necessary.

Memory loss, a feature of cognitive impairment, is the delay or failure to recall recent or distant events. Amnesia is an extreme form of memory loss when caused by a more severe injury to the brain, probably in a road accident, bomb explosion or shooting incident. Involvement due to injury or aging can produce loss of memory of varying levels. Loss can be a mild dysfunction (MCI ) or severe and named as dementia. Old people of 55-80 years of age could have cognitive impairment without having any illness.

Memory loss is seen in degenerative disorders or dementias like Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injuries, following ECT or in Korsakoff’s psychosis. Damage to the limbic system causes a loss of recent memory. This is seen in Korsakoff’s Disease. Recent events are forgotten due to a direct effect of alcohol or due to the associated nutritional deficiencies. . The ability to store and retrieve from short term memory is affected in natural aging too. The foremost problem is the loss of recent memory in Alzheimer’s Disease. The care-taker needs to be extremely patient as all her time would be spent for looking after the patient ( Ballenger, 2006).

Traumatic Amnesia usually occurs as a transient phenomenon following a head injury. ECT induced amnesia follows episodes of ECT in a psychiatric illness. The amnesia is transient and may last a year. Patients with implicit memory (not dependent on the part of the brain) remember to do some things (Dorf et al, 1994). Extensive damage to the left cerebral cortex can affect long term memory. Damage to the right cerebral cortex produces a disturbance in the visual and auditory perceptions and visuo-spatial deficit. Memories of seen articles or heard songs or even regularly visited places would not be remembered.

The Cerebral Cortex and the Lobes of the Brain The brain is composed of the cerebrum, cerebellum and the brain stem. The cerebrum forms the greatest part and is divided into lobes named by the overlying bone (April, 1990). The left and right cerebral hemispheres consist of the cerebral cortex, white matter and basal ganglia. The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain composed of grey matter. It has 1015 individual neurons connected in specific patterns. The white matter holds the tracts which connect the neurons. The surface is folded into gyri separated by sulci or grooves.

Each half of the cerebral hemispheres has the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, the limbic lobe and the central lobe. Motor and sensory cortex are found. Sensory cortex is again sub-divided into primary, secondary and association cortices. Primary is where the stimulus reaches first. Secondary is the area which is connected to the primary and helps in the processing. Association cortices have a 2 stimuli input. There are 3 identified associative cortices. They are the basis of thought and perception with practically no influence on behavior.

They are the parieto-temporal-occipital cortex, pre-frontal area and the limbic association area. The first receives somatosensory, auditory and visual projections. These associative areas integrate the information from the sensory modalities for language. Injury affecting this area causes a faulty language. The prefrontal area if affected produces problems in several cognitive behaviours. Difficulty arises in control of motor planning. The ability to concentrate and attend, elaboration of thought, personality and emotional traits are determined here. The frontal lobe subserves cognition and memory.

Broadman’s area in the left frontal lobe is involved with voluntary motor activities( April,1990). Damage to this area causes contralateral hemiplegia associated with a motor aphasia (involvement of the prefrontal cortex or Broca’s area). The parietal lobe processes sensory inputs and discrimination, body orientation and ability to write. Damage would produce an inability to recognize parts of the body, space and an inability to write. The occipital lobe is involved with primary visual function and visual interpretation. Damage would cause cortical blindness even when the eyes are perfectly normal.

The temporal lobe which has the Wernicke’s area subserves the auditory function, expressed behaviour, receptive language and memory. Damage would result in hearing deficits, childish behaviour and receptive aphasia. Lateralisation is evident in the right and left handedness of people. However this is no indication of the dominance of any hemisphere. 95% of people have left hemisphere language function, 18. 8% have right hemisphere language function. 19. 8 % have bilateral language functions. Linear reasoning, speech and vocabulary are lateralised to the left hemisphere.

Dyscalculia is caused by damage to the left temporo-parietal region. This leads to difficulty in doing mathematics. Some language functions like intonation and accentuation are with the right hemisphere. Musical and visual stimuli, spatial manipulation, facial perception and artistic ability are functions of the right too. Logical reasoning is with the left but intuitive reasoning is with the right. Cerebral asymmetry is the feature of the normal human brain. The left is the dominant hemisphere with language functions while the right is involved more with visuo-spatial functions.

An acquired language deficit accompanying right-sided stroke (left hemisphere involvement) is the best indication that the left hemisphere is dominant for language. The right hemisphere stroke does not involve speech problems. The corpus callosum connects the 2 hemispheres and coordinates the functions of both. Any injury to this area causes ‘Split brain’ where the coordination between the 2 hemispheres is lost. A ‘split brain’ patient does not speak of emotions or feelings. The right hemisphere and the left behave independently. The patient appears to have 2 minds.

It was revealed in studies by Robert Sperry, a psychobiologist, who conducted studies in patients in whom commissurectomy (severing the corpus callosum from each hemisphere ) was done as a treatment for intractable epilepsy. He found that the two halves of the brain had specific functions and each side acted independently, whereas in the normal brain, the two halves act in coordination. This is the theory of hemispheric independence (Zaire et al, 1990) After the operation, the right half showed predominance when it came to spatial tasks like arrangement of blocks.

The limbic area is the area of the brain that affects the emotions, rage, fear and sex. Integration of recent memory and biological rhythms are decided here. If this area is affected, an angry but frightened personality without emotional control would be the result. Recent memory would be lost. Aggression and Prosocial Behavior Prosocial Behaviour is helpful behavior intended to help another. It is different from altruism in that it is not voluntary helping behaviour that is costly to the giver (Psychology:An International Perspective, 2004).

Another definition states that this refers to the “voluntary actions intended to help another” ( Eisenberg and Mussen, 1989). Prosocial behaviour refers to the consequences of a doer’s actions rather than the motivations behind them. They include sharing, comforting, rescuing and helping, understanding the needs of the recipient (Knickerbocker, Learning to give). Traditional theories of helping include sociobiology, social learning , empathy and arousal. Physical aggression is a major health problem. Childhood aggression is a precursor to physical and mental health problems that occur in later life.

Aggressive children are also liable to higher risk of substance abuse , alcoholism, accidents, violent crimes, depression, suicide attempts, spouse abuse, neglectful and abusive parenting (Tremblay et al, 2004) It is unusual for the aggressive students to really harm their targets. However in studies of physical aggression in infancy, it was shown that by 17 months, a large majority of children are already aggressive towards their siblings, parents and peers (Tremblay et al, 2004).

A study by Tremblay et al attempted to identify the trajectories of physical aggressions during early childhood and also o identify antecedents of high levels of physical aggression early in life. 572 families with a 5- month old baby were selected and followed up till 42 months. 3 trajectories were identified. The first group of 28% had children who displayed little or no aggression. 58% showed a rising trajectory of modest aggression. 14 % showed a high level of physical aggression (Tremblay et al, 2004). Best predictors before the birth of the child were, having other siblings, confidence interveal, mothers with early( before end of high school ) and high antisocial behaviour , young mothers, families with low income and mothers who smoked.

The conclusion indicated was that physical aggression started in early infancy. All the predictors before birth were reasons for the child not learning how to preventive interventions. In order to change or reduce the long term impacts preventive intervention programmes must be chalked out effectively (Tremblay et al, 2004) In a model identifying 5 factors that prompt voluntarism (Clary and Snyder, 1990), they found that a combination of factors ultimately motivates volunteers.

One factor is altruism but all the other four are self serving: motivation by socially adjustable conditions, ego defensive considerations, the desire to acquire knowledge or skills for personal or professional education and helping understanding the needs. Aggression is caused in 3 ways in a child: instinct, rewards and observation. Obviously these 3 factors rule the manner in which the aggression is to be overcome or prevented. Catharsis may be tried to vent the child’s anger in other ways. Rewarding non aggressive behaviour works. Cognitive training is also effective. Promoting prosocial behaviour should be tried.

Rewarding good behaviour may not be so effective. A better way is to try modelling. The parent should ‘model’ good behaviour as the child always has a tendency to imitate its parents. The parent appeals to the childs pride and desire to be agrown-up (Aggressive and Prosocial Behaviour, Psychology campus. com). Social development Like all humans , babies are also social creatures. It was found from studies that babies recognise themselves at the age of 15 months. Prior to that, they would treat their mirror image as another like them and would even coax them to come out to play.

At about 15 months of age, the baby starts showing interest in others and developing a social awareness. It starts showing the emotions of shame, guilt, embarassment and pride. These babies glance at the facial expressions of others to decide how to react just like adults. In one study babies placed at the side of a high cliff kept watching their mothers’ faces. If they were encouraging, the babies would cross. When the mothers exhibited fear, the babies did not move. This is identified as social referencing. It. demonstrated the emotional bond or attachment of the babies with their mothers or caregivers.

For most infants emotional bonding appears around 8 to 12 months of age. Psychologist Mary Ainsworth (1913 -1999) spoke about 3 kinds of attachments. The securely attached infants would be upset by the mother’s absence. An insecure avoidant child is anxious about the mother’s absence but turns away when she returns. An insecure ambivalent child also has an emotional bond but has mixed feelings . It wants to be with the mother but is angry at her and does not want contact. Attachments do play a role in the life of the child and its future behaviour.

The securely attached ones would be the most confident. Attachment failures could be damaging. The mother has a strong role in promoting attachment in an infant, hoping to improve its mental status and bringing up a resilient child. Attachments to fathers provides one more reason to have a closely knit family with well behaved children. When a seond child arrives, attachment security drops. Commercial child care centers if of good quality does provide additional security. Children tend to have better relationships with their mothers and lesser problems.


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