My personality and learning style

I took a personality test that Mark found on the net. Here’s my results, I’d say they’re pretty accurate really.

It’s weird how both my personality and learning style are suited to Psychology ūüėõ

Click to view my Personality Profile page

I retook the personality test in a better mood and my results came out rather different :P Just shows how subjective to mood these things really are. I would say I'm more extraverted though, only when I'm in a good mood. Which is rather a lot :P

Click to view my Personality Profile page


Is Psychology a science?

Here’s another question I might get in my exam… I’m killing two birds with one stone; revision and blogging ūüėõ


When considering whether Psychology is a science it is imperative to take in to account which factors constitute a science. I will take these factors to be, whether it uses a scientific method, whether it is objective, whether it is falsifiable, whether it takes a nomothetic approach, and finally I will consider Kuhn’s theory of a science and whether or not Psychology has developed a paradigm.

Laboratory experiments could be said to be the only true experimental method; they are the only method which manipulates an¬†independent¬†variable (IV) and¬†measures it’s effect on the dependent variable (DV), whilst controlling confounding variables, and gathering empirical data. Most Psychologists, to a certain extent, use a scientific method as¬†they all try to gather evidence which will support their theories; this is unlike philosophers or theorists who purely develop theories. However, of course certain approaches within psychology use a more scientific method than others. For example, the behaviourists, cognitive and physiological psychologists all use pure scientific methods such as laboratory experiments and brain scans which produce empirical, numerical and scientific data. Other methods such as the correlational techniques (e.g. twin studies), field experiments and¬†natural experiments all haven elements of a scientific method but¬†fall down¬†in other areas such as controlling confounding variables and manipulating an IV. The Psychodynamic approach probably uses the least scientific methods; its theory is based wholly on interviews, case studies and analysis. It is important to remember though that none of these approaches are purely hypothetical, even the Humanistic approach which prides itself on being idiographic has carried out experiments such as those by Coopersmith into self-esteem in children. Therefore, in terms of using a scientific method only certain Psychological approaches can be labelled truly scientific, although all do maintain elements.

If Psychology was completely objective this would mean¬†that it did not involve any feelings or personal biases, i.e. it is the complete opposite of being subjective. Perhaps the most objective approach to Psychology is that taken by the behaviourists. They decided to focus on purely observable behaviour and not focus on what was in the ‘black box’ or the inner depths of the mind. The cognitive and physiological approach could be said to be slightly less objective as they do not concern themselves solely with observable behaviour, but look into inner cognitive processes, the role of genes and the nervous system. However, they do this using experimental methods which greatly reduces this element of subjectivity. On the other hand, the Psychodynamic approach is almost completely subjective; it is the role of the individual observer or therapist to analyse the unconscious of the patient¬†and the symbols in their dreams. This is obviously going to be largely affected by the therapists own feelings and biases, therefore¬†there is¬†a large degree of subjectivity. However, Popper has proposed an argument as to how subjective any science or observation can be. He states that nobody ever observes without some idea, or hypothesis, of what they are looking for; therefore, there is always a certain amount of subjectivity. In Psychology, it is once again apparent that some approaches are more scientific and objective than others, even if nothing can ever be¬†purely objective.

A large element of science is falsifiability; it has been argued by Popper that this, the ability to prove something wrong, is what sets science apart from pseudo-sciences and religion. Most theories developed in Psychology are falsifiable, in that evidence could be produced which would counteract a theory. For example, Koluchova’s case of the ‘Czech twins’ falsified Bowlby’s¬†maternal deprivation hypothesis¬†and proved that the effects of maternal privation could be reversed. There is, however, one main psychological theory which can not be disproved no matter what the evidence; that is Freud’s theories of defence mechanisms. If somebody answered yes to a question it could be said this was genuinely what they meant, however, if this answer contrasted with one of his theories it could be said that this personal is in denial and using a defence mechanism to say yes, when really they meant no. So once again it can be seen that some psychological approaches are more scientific than others, however, the majority of theories¬†are falsifiable.

Another factor separating a science from a non-science is whether or not it develops a nomothetic approach. This means whether or not it aims to establish general laws of behaviour which can be used to predict and control future situations. Most of the approaches in Psychology do have a nomothetic approach, after all¬†Psychology is the study of behaviour and mental process;¬†it would be impossible to study everyone in the¬†entire world, therefore, it can be assumed that most approaches aim to generalise their findings to the general population.¬†The humanistic approach which¬†aims to focus on the individual and¬†believes that every individual is different even maintains elements of a nomothetic approach. For example Roger’s theory of depressions states a general law of depression being that a person has a gap between their ideal self and their actual self. Therefore it can be seen that most of the psychological approaches do¬†hold a nomothetic approach.

Thomas Kuhn stated the most important factor in¬†defining a science is having a paradigm; this means “a general theoretical orientation that is accepted by most scientists in the discipline”. Considering Psychology is split up in to many different approaches, which use different research methods and develop different theories it is clear that Psychology has not yet developed a full paradigm. According to Kuhn this therefore means¬†that Psychology¬†is a pre-science, and I would agree with this.

Soon to come… should Psychology be a science!

Watch this space ūüėõ


Why don't we fancy our family?


According to Freud we do; we just keep it on the down low, in our unconcious mind. He believed that all children go through the oedipus complex, experiencing strong sexual desires for their opposite sex parent. However, they are kept repressed due to the strains and controls of society.

However, recently in AEA Psychology we’ve been learning all about the ins and outs of Evolutionary Pyschology, which offers a very different perspective on the matter of incest.

If it is only society which holds us back from fancying our family why do fifty percent of reunited biological family members¬†experience a strong sexual attraction? I thought that figure was rather shocking, it’s a phenomena so common it’s been given the name ‘Genetic Sexual Attraction’. It occurs because the genetic similarities between the family members make them incredibly similar and almost irresistable. So why is it that these same genetic similarities don’t make us fancy our brothers and sisters, or even our parents?

Westermarck, believes there is a mechanism in¬†the brain which has developed to stop us having sex with our family,¬†we wouldn’t have evolved very far otherwise. So how does it work? Well he thought that this part of the brain¬†develops¬†Kin Recognition¬†by whether or not you are living together, and being raised by the same people; making the thought of mating with them repulsive. Evidence for this has been provided by the Kibbutz community in Israel. The children raised together in the community, upon reaching puberty, rarely choose sexual partners who they were raised with. Further support to the theory is given by some arranged marriages in China. The baby daughter is given to the family which she is to marry into so the mother-in-law can raise her. It was found that in these cases the marriages turned out to be less happy, more likely to end in divorce, and produced¬†less¬†children.

As ever though the theory can’t fully explain everything… but I guess there are exceptions to every rule.


Tribal Child Development



Stimulation, contact and play; all things essential to ordinary child development. Or are they?

 In western culture it has gradually become imprinted on us that children need constant love and care in order to develop. This was origionally sparked off by the developments of Harlow and Bowlby, who found that deprivation of these key factors could lead to detrimental and permanent effects on children. Their works have been further developed, by many a parenting programme and pop psychology book, to tell us exactly what children are programmed to recquire. Up until now I had always assumed that, because they seem so logical, these needs would be universal. However, after reading a psychology article in Psychology Review (a magazine recommended on my course) this view has been challenged.

Kagan and Klein (1973) studied children from the island of San Marcos in Guatemala. Here children in their first year of life were often kept in small dark huts, rarely being taken outside as it was thought to be far to dangerous. Even whilst in the hut the mothers were recorded as rarely playing, or talking to their children. The toddlers were found to display similar behaviour to that found in institutionalised children in the West. Dramatically though, by the time they were aged 5-12 years there was no reported lasting mental damage; the children were able to perform at the same level as ordinary children in the West. Remarkably they were also found to be happy, bright children!

Schieffelin and Ochs (1983) challenged the common thought that children need to be “bathed in language” in order to learn to speak. They observed The Kaluli of Papua New Guinea where mothers were recorded as rarely talking to their babies; out of the belief that they could not understand what was being said. If Western ideas¬†are to be believed the children should have developed at a much later rate, or even become linguistically retarded. However, the children were found to be completely fluent in their native language well within the normal range expected.

These studies don’t suggest all babies should be kept in dark huts, under total silence; just that perhaps our ideas of what babies need is not as universal as it may seem.¬†Perhaps they even provide¬†an argument for nurture over nature?¬†

Token Economy; Prisoners living the life of luxury?

Token Economy is a¬†treatment program aimed at ‘unlearning’ maladaptive behaviour and replacing it with¬†a¬†more¬†desirable one. It works on the principles of operant conditioning; in a nutshell, people will do good things if you reinforce them.


 The idea is that prisons draw up a list of all the actions they would like to see the inmates carrying out e.g. doing chores, complying with rules, and interacting positively. In return, for each good thing they do they receive a token. This elusive token can be exchanged for reinforcers such as sweets, yard time, fizzy drinks, and maybe even visits home.

 To me this just sounds far to patronising, prisoners are not children and this kind of a system is just simply too primative. Studies have shown that it works in the short term; it does reduce aggression, and the prisoners do comply with the rules. Hobbs and Holt (1976) found that when they introduced a token economy system in three juvenile delinquent centres there was a significant increase in the desired behaviours, compared to the control. However, Cohen and Flipjack (1971) recorded that, although delinquents who had been under a token economy system were less likely to reoffend after one year, after three all postive effects had diminished.

 In my opinion token economy is just a short term solution to a long term problem. Although it may reduce aggression in prisons, making the jobs of the officers a lot easier, it does nothing to reform the prisoners. My objection to token economy  is not along the lines of the tabloids; outraged that prisoners receive sweets and free time, perhaps believing instead it should be all punishment. Infact, it seems to me from my (not yet very intensive) studies of Psychology that punishment does little other than harbouring resentment and making people that little bit more twisted.

Perhaps the ideal solution would be one where prisoners are helped to change in the long term. It doesn’t seem very clever to me, and I may just be young and naive, that when angry and aggressive people do angry and ¬†aggressive things we lock them up miles away from civilisation with lots of other angry and aggressive people,¬†then let them fester in it. The label of prisoner is also hard to escape once they are free.

In an ideal world perhaps a better solution would be to help these people, try to introduce them to yoga or other areas of spirituality and education. Help them to educate themselves in all kinds of ways and not look down on them. Although I am fully aware I appear to be living in my own rose tinted world, where prisoners like to contort their bodies and become at one with their minds; however, perhaps that is the job of the young generation, to be open minded and suggest new things. Even if they are slightly far fetched ūüėõ

Update: mark has done a post ‘prisoners on the path to enlightenment’¬†go check it out ūüėÄ

The Nature of Love… and some messed up monkeys

I have been reading a lot about Harry Harlow recently, the man who believed he found the nature of love. If he did I’m pretty sure he never personally found it for himself, here is a summary of his studies:


The earlier Harlow experiments were relatively ethical, at least compared to his later ones! He took baby monkey’s away from their mothers and placed them in a room with a.) a wire mother, who had spiky nipples but lots of milk and b.) a wire mother covered in soft fur, but without milk. He found that the baby monkey’s spent the majority of the day cuddled up to their fur mothers, forming a strong bond; occasionally they hopped over to the wire mother for some food, but never stayed for too long. This was revolutionary for the time, the early 1960s, when most behaviorists believed that the bond formed between mother and child developed purely because the baby associated their mother with the pleasurable experience of being fed. He showed that the nature of love was in intimate contact, not food.

However, it first became obvious that intimate contact was not all that was needed in childhood when the young rhesus monkey’s began to grow up. Their behaviour began to resemble that of autistic humans; they would rock themselves in repetitive motions, and were incredibly hostile to other monkeys, refusing to mate. In a separate study Harlow found that if these monkeys were given half an hour a day to play with other monkey’s their social development was normal. He had shown that not only was intimate contact needed but that this contact needed to be interactive as well, but did not necessarily need to come from the mother.

I think his studies took a serious turn for the darker side, when upon realising these isolated monkey’s would not mate, he designed the “rape rack”. This forced the monkeys to mate against their will. Among the monkey’s who became pregnant, they were all completely incapable of looking after their babies; many of the mother’s even killed their children.

Not realising his studies had gone to far, or perhaps noticing and just craving publicity, Harlow went on to carry out even darker experiments. The pit of despair was another contraption he invented, which he left baby monkey’s trapped inside of, with only food and water, no light. He left some in for 30 days, others for 6 months and others for one year. The results were that many of the monkeys stopped eating and starved to death, others starting to self harm; all monkeys were completely unable to regain normal social behaviour ever again after being in isolation for over a year.

Some say that Harry Harlow’s studies had great implications for how we do things today, for example, revolutionising the care that is provided in children’s homes, and suggestions to new mothers that their child is placed on their chest immediately after birth. His findings also lead to more loving ways of rearing children developed during the 70s. However, personally I feel that these findings, that children need contact and play to develop normally, are quite self explanatory and there was no need to create so many messed up monkeys!

Culture Bound Syndromes

Today I have been studying Culture Bound Syndromes and a few of them are really bizarre. I couldn’t help but post them on my blog ūüėÄ

1.) Dhat; mainly occurs in Indian-Hindu cultures.

This is when people hold the belief that semen is leaking out of their body and taking away their power. This leads to feelings of exhaustion, weakness, and lethargy.

On first appearance it may just look like these people are completely mad, but (this is what i find really interesting) they may not be as culture bound as it first appears.  If we take into consideration that, according to my textbook, in Indian cultures semen is thought to be produced in the blood, and is seen as a symbol of energy. It could be the underlying disorder is depression, one of the symptoms being loss of energy, and it is just being expressed differently by another culture!

2.) Koro; mainly occurs in Chinese cultures

This is the when people believe¬†¬†that their penis is shrinking, and will eventually withdraw into their abdomen killing them! Obviously this results in extreme anxiety, and apparently they take countermeasures to stop this process; an example of which is tying objects, such as weights and chopsticks to their penis… OW! haha.

Well, urm, I don’t really have an explanation for that one. ūüėõ

Mixing revision with blogging… is that "Normal"?

Today I have been revising the age old question of abnormality for my Clinical Psychology exam. What is normal and abnormal behaviour? I’ve had to learn two definitions and I thought I’d share them ūüôā

1.) Abnormality is deviation from Statistical Norms

-This means abnormality is behaviour which falls outside the range of what is considered to be usual behaviour, exhibited by the majority of the population.

-Disorders are usually categories of behaviour, e.g. you are either schizophrenic or not schizophrenic (according to my psychology book) Therefore abnormality is displaying behaviours which belong to these categories, which not many people belong to.

So i guess according to this one I’m probably abnormal, not many people at my college are writing blog posts about their revision. Infact I’m pretty sure the majority don’t even own one, I know i didn’t until about 3 days ago ūüėõ . According to this definition people with high empathy and high intelligence are also abnormal, a label which comes with a lot of stigma… hmm.

2.) Abnormality is the Failure to Function Adequately

-This means that somebody is abnormal when they are unable to lead a normal life, or engage in normal behaviour eg. they are unable to work or live by themselves.

-They engage in maladaptive behaviour which is detramental to their health, or the health of others.

-They may experience personal distress

And¬†according to this¬†one I would say I am thoroughly normal; this blog post certainly hasn’t caused me much personal distress, and writing all this information out again has probably been helpful, not maladaptive. Also, as my¬†worksheet so delightfully put it “what about happy, fulfilled tramps?”.

My personal opinion is that the real definition of abnormality is probably a bit more subjective than my A-level course allows. It’s probably a mixture of these definitions and a few others; that is the one thing that really grates me about A-level Psychology, everything is split up exactly to fit into the curriculum (great for revising) but not very realistic ūüôĀ

Perhaps the real question is; why are so many psychologists desperate to find out what’s abnormal… is¬†that normal?!¬†hehe¬†ūüėȬ†