The behaviourist perspective
The behaviourist perspective is an idea that we can understand any type of behaviour by looking at what the person has learned. This includes personality traits such as shyness, confidence, optimism or pessimism. Behaviourist psychologists explain all human behaviour as resulting from experience. Two key psychologists are Pavlov and skinner, although these two theorists believed that different processes were involved, they both explained all types of behaviour as being the result of learning. This is everything from shyness to aggression and happiness to depression. Classical conditioning
Classical conditioning was a theory developed by a Russian psychologist called Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936). He was working with dogs to investigate their digestive systems. The dogs were attached to a harness and Pavlov attached monitors to their stomachs and mouths so he could measure the rate of salivation. He noticed that the dog began to salivate when someone entered the room with a bowl of food, but before the dog had eaten the food. Since salivation is a reflex response, this seemed unusual. Pavlov decided that the dog was salivating because it had learned to associate the person with food. He then developed a theory. Food automatically led to the salivation response, since this response had not been learned, he called this an unconditioned response, which is a response that regularly occurs when an unconditioned stimulus is presented.
As food automatically leads to this response, he called this unconditioned stimulus, which is a stimulus that regularly and consistently leads to an automatic response. Pavlov then presented food at the same time as ringing a bell (neutral stimulus), to see if the dog would learn to associate the bell with food. After several trials, the dog learned that the bell was associated with food and eventually it began to salivate only when the bell was rung and no food was presented. It therefore has learned the conditioned response (CR) of salivation to the conditioned stimulus (CS) of the bell. Operant conditioning
This sort of learning is associated with the theories of Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904 – 1990). Skinner was an American psychologist who worked mostly with rats and pigeons, to learn some of the key principles of learning new behaviours. He used a very famous device, called a skinner box. Skinner famous device was a box which contained a lever which, when pressed, releases a food pellet into the box, thus reinforcing lever-pressing behaviour. When the rat is first placed in the box it will run around and sniff the various items in the box and at some point it will press the lever, releasing a food pellet. After a while of the repeated performed action the rat will learn this behaviour (pressing the lever) is automatically followed by the release of a food pellet (the consequence). Because the pellet is experienced as reinforcing (something the rat would like to have more of), this consequence increases the probability of the behaviour being repeated.
There are two types of reinforcement: positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Skinner investigated negative reinforcement by running a very low electrical current throughout the floor of the Skinner box. The current can be de-activated if the rat pressed the lever. The behaviour of lever pressing was thus negatively reinforcing. For humans, this can be demonstrated by the example of using pain relief. For example, if you have aches and pains and you take a painkiller, which results in the aches and pains going away, you are negatively reinforced for taking a painkiller. Punishment occurs only when behaviour is followed by a consequence that is experienced as unpleasant. Skinner investigated this by giving the rat a small electric shock when the rat pressed the lever. The consequence of the lever pressing (the electric shock) was experienced as unpleasant, so the rat learned to stop pressing the lever. Social learning theory
The effects of other individuals on behaviour
There are many influences on our behaviour, for example peers, siblings, parents, television, media, sports personalities and other celebrities. Well according to social learning theory, role models are very important. While we may learn new behaviours from anyone, the likelihood of imitating behaviours is strongly influenced by the way we perceive the person performing the behaviour (the model). If we observe someone we admire behaving in a particular way, we may be more likely to imitate such behaviour. If, for example
The effects of groups on behaviour
Our behaviour is strongly influenced by the presence of others, however much we believe ourselves to be truly individuals in our beliefs and behaviour. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the experiments conducted in the 1950’s by social psychologist Solomon Asch. He was interested in a concept called majority influence. This is when the presence of other people causes us to change our public behaviour or opinions because we do not want to stand out from the crowd (be different). We have a powerful desire to belong and will ‘go along’ with what others in our group say, think and do in order to FIT IN. This is what he did to test this idea. A group of six of the experimenter (people who were play-acting according to instructions) were joined by a naive participant (a genuine participant who knew nothing about the nature of the experiment) in a task that supposedly tested visual perception. The experimenter explained that the task involved stating whether a target line. The effects of culture and society on behaviour
The term culture refers to the shared values, norms, language, customs and practices of a group. Most of us tend to think of culture as being specific to different countries. It is important to understand how culture affects our behaviour in order to gain a full understanding of people we come across and those we work with.
The self-fulfilling prophecy
This part is an important concept in psychology that plays a big role on the way we behave towards others and expect them to behave towards us. If we believe ourselves to be worthy, pleasant and likeable then we will most definitely be polite and cheerful towards those we meet and this will create a favourable impression. In response to those who may come into contact with us view us favourably and behave in a positive way towards us, with the result that our own positive self-beliefs are confirmed. To put it another way, we are angry, full of resentment, believe the world is against us and more, then we are likely to behave in a more aggressive, confrontational or argumentative way, in which case that is how we will be viewed, which will confirm our views of ourselves and the world. Role theory
Between role theory and the self-fulfilling prophecy there is a similarity, in that role theory comments that because we live within a particular culture, society and social group, we are influenced by other people. This influence helps lead us to taking up certain roles and trying to live up to the expectations that go with that role. Albert Bandura
Social learning theory explains behaviour as the result of learning from people we are exposed to in our environment. We can also learn new behaviours from people we observe, either in real life or in the media. This is known as observational learning and this theory was developed by the American psychologist, Albert Bandura. The person we learn from is known as a role model, and the process of imitating is called modelling. However, we do not imitate all behaviour we observe and remember. Whether or not it is in our interests to imitate particular behaviour is influenced by characteristics of the model. If we see a model being punished for certain behaviour, we are less likely to imitate it than if we see him or her being positively reinforced. The psychodynamic approach
The importance of the unconscious mind:
Freud was one of the earliest thinkers to bring to public attention the idea that we are not always aware of all aspects of ourselves. He suggested that what we are aware of is represented in our conscious mind but many of our memories, feelings and past experiences are locked up in a part of our mind he called ‘unconscious’. We cannot access the contents of our unconscious, but they often ‘leak out’ in dreams and slips of the tongue. Freud believed that the conscious mind was like the tip of an iceberg – only a small part being available to awareness. Part of the unconscious that we can easily access he called the pre-conscious. This contains information not yet in consciousness but that can easily be retrieved (e.g. the name of your friends dog). The rest, well under the surface, consisted of the unconscious. Importance of early experiences
The importance of early experience in determining later behaviours is clearly illustrated by Freud’s developmental theory of psychosexual stages. He believed that we all go through several stages of psychosexual development. At every stage, the individual’s libido (energy) is focused on a part of the body that is particularly relevant at that stage. If the needs of the developing child are met at each stage, it moves on to the next developmental stage. If however, there is struggle or conflict or some unsatisfactory experience, the individual becomes ‘fixated’ (stuck) at this stage. This results in certain ways of being, or personality traits, which are carried through into adulthood and which can explain behaviour later in life. The earliest stage is the ‘oral stage’.
The focus here is on the mouth and activities such as sucking, biting and licking. (You will probably have noticed that young babies seem to put everything in their mouths.) Freud believed that there could be two reasons for fixation. If the infant was weaned too early, it would feel forever under-gratified and unsatisfied and would develop into a pessimistic, sarcastic person. If, on the other hand, it was over- gratified (weaned too late) the individual would develop a gullible personality, naively trusting in others and with a tendency to ‘swallow anything’. This stage lasts from birth to roughly 18 months. If the infant successfully passes through the oral stage without becoming fixated, the next stage is the ‘anal stage’, which lasts from approximately one to three years. Here the libido is focused on aspects to do with potty training. If there is a battle with parents about potty training with the child feeling forced to use the potty before they are ready, or feeling over – controlled in various areas, they may rebel by retaining their faeces: the child refuses to ‘go’, thus holding on to control and withholding satisfaction from the parent.
This type of fixation is called ‘anally retentive’ and is associated with later personality characteristics such as obstinacy, miserliness and obsessive traits. The alternative scenario is that the child is not given enough boundaries over potty training so they take excessive pleasure in excretion and become a messy, creative, disorganised sort of person. During the ages of four to five the child passes through the ‘phallic stage’. Fixation at this stage is associated with anxiety and guilty feelings about sex and fear of castration for males. If this stage is not resolved, the theory suggests that a boy may become homosexual and a girl may become a lesbian. Freud thought these were abnormal fixations; however most people today would not view them in this way. Between the ages of five to seven and the onset of puberty, the child enters the ‘latency stage’, which is not strictly speaking a developmental phase but a time when the focus is on social pursuits such as sport, academic excellence and the development of friendships. The final psychosexual stage is the ‘genital stage’, which begins at puberty.
Freud believed that the less fixated the individual has become during the earlier stages, the more easily this stage will be negotiated, resulting in the ability to form strong heterosexual relationships with an ability to be warm and loving as well as to receive love in a new, mature fashion. A second important feature of early experience is the development of ego defence mechanisms. The use of a defence mechanism allows us to block out events that threaten to overwhelm us. A final influence is that of the mind. Freud suggested that the mind (which he called the psyche) is divided into three dynamic parts. The id is a part of the mind which is totally unconscious and which exists at birth. It is focused on getting what it wants and consists of aggressive, sexual and loving instincts. It is the part of us that says ‘i want it now!’ The superego is formed as a result of socialisation and consists of all instructions, morals and values that are repeatedly enforced as we are growing up. It takes on the form of a conscience and also represents our view of our ideal self. The main role of the superego is to try to subdue the activity of the id.
The ego tries to balance the demands of the id and the superego. It is the rational part of the mind, always seeking to do what is most helpful to the individual. Different behaviours can be understood by trying to infer which part of the psyche is dominant at any time. A person who is very submissive, guilty and always wanting to please may have a very strong superego. A person who is impulsive, careless of other people’s feelings, doesn’t think through the consequences of their actions and is perhaps inclined to aggression, either verbal or physical, probably has a dominant id. A person who can be submissive and assertive when necessary, who is bale to think about other people’s feelings but also consider and value their own needs, has probably got a strong enough ego to balance the demands of the id and the superego. They are likely to have quite a rational and realistic outlook on life. Erik Erikson
Erik Erikson was a psychologist who agreed with much of Freud’s theory in so far as he thought that we developed through a series of stages. However, he thought that these continued throughout our lifetime and were essentially social in nature. He also believed that Freud put too much emphasis on our desire for individual gratification and not enough on our need to be accepted by society and lead a meaningful life. Erikson suggested that we move through a series of psychosocial crises with a different social focus at each stage. For example between birth and the age of one, the life crisis concerns developing trust or mistrust in self and others. The social focus at this stage is the mother. The humanistic perspective
Human psychology looks at human experience from the viewpoint of the individual. It focuses on the idea of free will and the belief that we are all capable of making choices for ourselves. Two psychologists associated with this approach are Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers. Abraham Maslow
Maslow (1908-1970) was an American psychologist who believed that we are all seeking to become the best that we can possibly can- spiritually, physically, emotionally and intellectually. He called this Self-actualisation. He constructed a theory known as the hierarchy of needs, in which he explained that every human being requires certain basic needs to be met before they can approach the next level. Maslow believed that until our basic psychological needs are met, we will focus all our energies on getting them met and not be able to progress further. When people are well-housed, well-fed and comfortable physically, we begin to focus on our emotional needs, like the need to belong and be loved and to feel self-esteem. When our lives are such that these needs are also met, we strive to self-actualise. As Maslow said ‘A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if that person is to be ultimately at peace with their self’. What a person can be, they must be. This need we call self-actualisation. Carl Rogers
Rogers (1902-1987) was particularly interested in the concept of self. There are many aspects of the self but two are especially important here. Self-concept refers to the way in which we view ourselves. This includes physical, biological attributes like being male or female, blonde or brunette, short or tall, as well as personality traits like being kind, humble, assertive and hard working. The self -concept is formed from an early age and young children internalise other people’s judgements of them, which then become a part of their self –concept. If a child is told their silly, naughty apart of self-concept will contain these aspects. Another way of looking at it is a child is praised, encouraged to succeed and told they are valued; they will have a positive self-concept and see themselves as someone who is worthwhile and competent. Rogers believed that we also hold a concept of self, called the ideal self. This holds a view of ourselves as we feel we should be and as we would like to be. When there is a mismatch between our actual self and our ideal self we become troubled and unhappy. The cognitive/information processing perspective
This psychological perspective has gained enormous ground since the 1960’s, when the influence of behaviourism began to happen. With the development of computers came the idea that brain activity was like the operation of a computer. A great deal of research had been devoted to understanding cognitive processes such as attention, memory, perception, information processing, problem solving, thought language and other aspects of cognition. A way to understand this perspective is it relates to health and social care, we are going to concentrate on just two theorists: Jean Piaget and George Kelly. Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) was a Swiss psychologist who initially worked on measuring intelligence. During his research he noticed children of the same age made the same mistakes in logic, however bright they were. He came to the conclusion that cognition develops through a series of stages, each new stage building on the previous one. George Kelly
George Kelly (1905-1966) developed a unique psychological theory known as the psychology of Personal Constructs. He saw the individual as a scientist, making predictions about the future, testing them and, if necessary, revising them according to new evidence. A construct is a way of construing (interpreting and making sense of) reality and the environment. For example
if an individual develops
The biological perspective
The theory of maturation holds that the effects of the environment are minimal. The child is born with a set of genetic instructions passed down from its parents, and its cognitive, physical and other developmental processes merely unfold over time, rather than being dependent upon the environment to mature. It is, in effect, a theory which states that development is due to nature not nurture. This is quite a contrast to the learning theory or humanistic theory, where the effects of nurture are paramount. Gesell’s theory of maturation
Arnold Gesell (1880-1961) believed that development occurred according to a sequence of maturational processes. For example, development in the womb follows a fixed set of stages: the heart begins to form first, along with the rudimentary nervous system. Bones and muscles develop next and over time the organism develops into a fully functioning human being, ready to be born. As the child develops from birth onwards, its genes allow it to flower gradually into the person he or she is meant to be. The environment should provide support for this unfolding of talents, skills, personality and interests but the main thing driving this development is the maturational process. Genetic influences on behaviour
Genes can affect behaviour in many ways. Some disorders, like Huntington’s disease, are caused by a single dominant gene, which either parent can pass on to their child. Others, like cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia, are caused when both parents pass on the gene for the disorder. Disorders that occur regardless of the environmental influences, such as those listed above, are genetically determined disorders. This means that the individual who inherits the gene or genes is certain to develop the disorder, regardless of the environmental factors. An example of this is Huntington’s disease. This disorder usually begins to show when the individual is aged between 30 and 50 years. Symptoms of dementia appear and the individual is likely to die about 15 years after the onset. Some of the changes in behaviour are listed below, though this list is not comprehensive: Hallucinations and delusions
Progressive memory less
Inappropriate speech; use of jargon or wrong words
Personality changes including anxiety and depression, withdrawal from social interaction, decreased ability to care for oneself and inability to maintain employment. Disorders that are not genetically determined, but where an individual’s genes may leave them with a vulnerability to developing the disorder, are far more common. A classic way of measuring the contribution of genes to any type of behaviour is through twin studies. There are two types of twins. Monozygotic or identical, twins share 100 percent of their genetic material since they are formed from only one fertilised egg, which has divided into two. Dizygotic or (fraternal) twins share only 50 per cent of genetic material since they occur when two eggs are fertilised by different sperm at the same time.
If, the reasoning goes, one of a pair of monozygotic twins has a disorder, it would be expected that, if genes are the only influence, the second twin must also have the disorder. The influence of the nervous and endocrine systems on behaviour The autonomic nervous system produces its effects through activation of nerve fibres throughout the nervous system, brain and body or by stimulating the release of hormones from the endocrine glands (such as the adrenal and pineal glands). Hormones are biochemical substances that are released into the bloodstream and have a profound effect on target organs and on behaviour. They are present in very small quantities and individual molecules have a very short life, so their effects quickly disappear if they are not secreted continuously. There are a large number of hormones including:
Melatonin, which is released by the pineal gland and acts on the brainstem sleep mechanisms to help synchronise the phases of sleep and activity. Testosterone, which is released in the testicles and may influence aggressiveness. Oxytocin, which is released by the pituitary gland and stimulates milk production and female orgasms. Some hormones are released as a response to external stimuli. For example, the pineal gland responds to reduced daylight by increasing production of melatonin. Other hormones follow a circadian rhythm, with one peak and one trough every 24 hours. (Circadian means ‘about a day’ and refers to a 24 hour rhythm). For instance, levels of cortisol rise about an hour before you wake up and contribute to your feelings of wakefulness or arousal.
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