Monday, December 24, 2012

The Senior Citizen in Late Adulthood

The Senior Citizen in Late Adulthood

The most rapidly growing age group in the United States is the elderly, or those individuals age sixty-five and older (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). This period of development is known as late adulthood. Significant physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional developmental processes occur during this stage (McGraw Hill, 2011). In order to understand the changes in late adulthood, I interviewed an eighty year old female who I will call the participant when referring to her. The participant was married in 1950 and had two sons, one born in 1954 and the second in 1955. The participant became a widow after fifty-four years of marriage. She was willing to discuss her early adulthood as well as her late adulthood with me.

Notable and Surprising Aspects of Interview
The participant was willing to discuss any topic about adulthood with me, even adding additional information to some questions. The general assumption in the past was that older adults are forgetful and confused. Gerontologists now have research to the contrary (McGraw Hill, 2011). During my interview with the participant, I noticed that she remembered generally more information from the past than one usually would think. The participant admitted during the interview that she sometimes calls people by the wrong name. However, she said that this was a characteristic that she has always possessed. Another view that generally has been accepted is that older adults become physically, psychologically, and socially withdrawn. This is known as the disengagement theory of aging (McGraw Hill, 2011). However, through my interview with the participant, I did not see this theory as true. The participant still participates in physical activities as well as social activities. The participant still works full - time hours as a customer service manager at Walmart. She is on her feet for eight or more hours a day approximately five days a week. She relays that her job helps her to remain active. Many of the elderly are placed in a retirement or nursing home. The participant still lives at home; the same home her husband built for her over sixty years ago. The participant also primarily drives herself around. This fact means that she still has good vision as well as mental ability.

Overall Functioning of Participant
Gerontologists John Rowe and Robert Kahn proposed the concept of successful aging in 1998 (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). An individual is considered to successfully have aged if he or she effectively integrates his or her level of functioning in the three areas of development: physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional. After listening to the participant relay events from her past and present, I believe her to have successfully aged. She remains physically active, engages in mentally stimulating activities, and has an active social support system. The participant stated in the interview that she enjoyed walking in her early adulthood as well as now. She also stated that her health was in good condition. According to Wood, Wood, and Boyd, the elderly are “enjoying life in relatively good health” (2011, p. 325). The participant enjoys reading and crossword puzzles. Researchers believe that individuals who keep mentally and physically active tend to retain his or her mental skills in late adulthood (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). Filial responsibility is the obligation an adult child believes he or she should take care of his or her parents (Berger, 2011). The participant stated that her children help her by doing things for her and particularly helping with the upkeep of her home. I believe that this type of relationship with her children benefits the participant in several aspects of her life. According to Berger, emotional support from children is often more crucial than financial support (2011). Based upon the information provided by the participant, I believe she receives emotional support from her children; this in turn benefits her aging. The participant also stated in the interview that many of her children’s friends consider her to be a mother figure for him or her. In turn, these relationships aid her aging process. She not only has her biological children to help her with tasks, but she also has her children’s friends to help her. The most successful elderly are those who maintain the same interests and activities from middle adulthood. This is called the activity theory of aging (McGraw Hill, 2011).  The participant still enjoys the same activities now as she did in middle adulthood. She stated that during both stages she enjoyed activities such as walking, reading, attending cook outs, playing Bingo, and playing cards.  

The process by which a person examines and evaluates his or her life is called life review (McGraw Hill, 2011). When I asked the participant about what she believed gave life meaning, I think she somewhat went through this process. She had to examine and evaluate her own life. She came to the conclusion that the most meaningful moments in her life dealt with her interactions with loved ones. She is happy and satisfied being surrounded by family and friends. Several years ago, it was believed that late adulthood was a period of inactivity, physical, and mental decline (McGraw Hill, 2011). Gerontologists believe that the elderly are capable of active and healthy lives. The stereotype of old age is quickly vanishing.  As evidenced in my interview with the participant, it is possible for a person in his or her late adulthood to enjoy the same interests as in middle adulthood. It is also possible for him or her to have very good physical health, retain his or her cognitive health, and an outgoing social circle. Because of these three events, a person can have aged successfully.


Berger, K. S. (2011). The developing person through the life span (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

McGraw Hill (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). the world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc/Allyn and Bacon.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Middle Childhood and Adolescence

Middle Childhood and Adolescence Development
{A collaboration between M. Lewis, C. Swarmer, A. Lancaster, K. Hoffman, and T. Cross}

     During the time of adolescence there are many stages that affect middle childhood. There are positive and negative consequences of the different development choices during this time frame of life.
     Essential changes in peer relationships middle childhood are ability to have a healthy relation of social skills with their peers (Berger, 2011).  In addition, as middle childhood this group often socialize within their same sex types.  Relationships between peers develop in social settings and within background, environments, and like mind ability to interactions for positive developmental skills.  In most of these settings within a child early stage of childhood these are usually important steps in becoming close with his or her peers, and leading to building friendships, which begin a path well into early adulthood at this age are easily influence.  In this influence a child with a healthier family base are less likely to become influence into unhealthy behavior patterns versus those who grow up in neglect households.  Early childhood self-esteem level varies from older generations most area base on material possession rather than personal connections. 
     Therefore, the changes begin to show itself more as middle childhood relations with their peers about impress one another with things or perhaps image to fit in with peers. This seem in compares to the developmental stage of Erikson.   In addition, they begin to compare what they have in common for example, clothes, tennis shoes, and toys, technical devices like Wii or play stations.  As adolescent developmental stages, changes kick in the identifying of puberty, sexual identity, become important, and with this age group peer-pressure become inevitable.  The use of drugs, alcohol, and sex forced topics on some to become a part of groups this stems in peer-pressure (Berger, 2001).  Middle childhood changes show what they can do better than a friend can, and too versus an adolescence changes reflect inward into which they are and a part of crowds to become popular among their peers (Berger, 2001).    Adolescents can take on a job the marks their beginning place in society; this becomes a part of adolescence individuality.  In addition, other importance at this stage stems into early adulthood, and lead to education as well as their beginning their own family.  
       Egocentrism is different in each person. Egocentrism does start at childhood and goes into when a child hits the adolescence stage of life. Egocentrism is when a thought and problems are based by one’s thinking and by the examination of themselves. Egocentrism helps the child to develop a clear and consistent identity. During this time, the child will lead to self-absorption, which helps to find their identity and to help their decision-making. There are two components during egocentrism. The two components are imaginary audience and the personal fable. The imaginary audience is the person that is thinking about him or herself and thinking about the thoughts of other people.
     Personal fable complements the imaginary audience. The person in the personal fable starts to consumes how adolescences act, dress, and how special that they can be. During this, many people start to exaggerate on what they believe. During this stage, this is where the children take big risk such as unprotected sex, taking drugs, drinking while driving, and so on. During this stage, this is when many people believe that it will not happen to them.
     During adolescence, psychosocial changes are also experienced along with physical and mental development (Kiran-Esen, 2012). Adolescents become more independent from their parents and desire to spend more time with peers. A primary experience during this time of development is joining a peer group. These peers become a source of influence and support (Kiran-Esen, 2012). Peer pressure can be defined as “the encouragement to conform to one’s friends or contemporaries in behavior, dress and attitude” (Berger, 2011, p. 442). Peer pressure is commonly considered negative; however, it can be positive as well. Peer pressure can come in the form of joining sports or studying as well as it can be trying drugs or breaking the law. Adolescents are more likely to conform to peer standards than children do (Santrock, 2010). Around the eighth or ninth grades, adolescents are more likely to conform to peers, especially to the antisocial standards.
     Adolescents organize themselves in different ways. These types of peer groups have a more important role in adolescents than children (Santrock, 2010). Cliques are one type of peer group. Cliques are close friends, loyal to one another, exclude outsiders, and are usually the same sex and age. Crowds are another type of peer group. These are larger groups; they have something in common, and are not necessarily friends (Berger, 2011). Crowds identify with a common identity such as ethnicity or interests. Both types of peer groups provide social control and social support by comments, exclusion, and admiration.
     Adolescents use selection and facilitation to form peer relationships. Adolescents choose his or her friends; not always wisely but never randomly (Berger, 2011). Adolescents choose a clique based on values and interests. Past relationships may be abandoned if they do not follow the same clique. Adolescents facilitate destructive and constructive behaviors (Berger, 2011). The facilitation process helps adolescents act in ways they would not act on their own.
     The way peers think influences adolescents more than what they do. Adolescents have a desire for immediate reward and are more influenced by the presence of peers therefore, taking more risks when in the presence of peers (O'Brien, Albert, Chein, & Steinberg, 2011). Adolescents uncertain about his or her social identity, such as low self-esteem and high social anxiety, are more likely to conform to peers. Adolescents are also more likely to conform to peers when around someone perceived to have a higher status.
     Between the ages of 10 and 25 drug experimenting starts and is the leading cause of the high rate of adolescent dropouts. Adolescents are the most curious and most vulnerable human beings. They tend to experiment with drugs because of peer pressure and the because of growing pains adolescents face. Adolescents are hormonal and immature. This makes experimenting with drugs during adolescents hazardous. Drugs offer satisfying sensations that are “fun” for the immature mind of adolescents. Adolescents are not aware that they are not invincible and do not perceive that drugs are harmful.
     Cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medicines, fumes from aerosol containers, cleaning fluid, and even markers are used to produce the warranted sensations adolescents are searching for from using drugs. These types of drugs are assessable to youth because they can buy them at a local store or in his or her parents’ medicine cabinet. Other drug use involves illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. However, in most cases youth retreat from drug use by the age of 18.
     Gender differences pertaining to drug experimenting are reinforced by social constructions about proper male and female behavior (Berger, 2008). Studies of American high school children yield that adolescent boys use more drugs preferably cigarettes more often than girls do. Studies have found that cigarettes are most accessible and seem to be less harmful. However, tobacco impairs digestion and nutrition, and slows down growth in adolescents. Girls tend to start drinking alcohol at a younger age than boys start to use cigarettes. Drinking at an early age leads to abuse and impairs memory and self-control by damaging the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, perhaps distorting the reward circuits of the brain (Berger, 2008).
     Drug use in adolescents can be detrimental. Drug use can lead to addiction, brain damage, and the lack of brain maturation more pronounced in adolescents than in adults. Drug use can also lead to internal organ damage because organs continue to mature and drug-using teenagers who appear full-grown may damage their developing hearts, lungs, and reproductive systems (Berger, 2008). Studies show that the experimenting phase leads to abuse and eventually an addiction to drugs that has to be fulfilled to avoid believing that he or she is ill.
       Adolescence is a time where a child's body is drastically changing. Some adolescents begin puberty around age ten, which is considered young. These individuals face many pressures when it comes to dating, sexual issues, and changes within family relationships for a few reasons. First, an adolescent is faced with the pressure of dating once they begin being seen as a growing adult. As a girl begins to grow breasts she is faced with being teased by her classmates and hiding herself because of embarrassment. When an adolescent's body changes early, they often date people older than them because they are both more mature, physically and mentally, than those that are the same age. Second, as the maturing child begins to date, they are pressured into sexual relationships that are sexually active. This can put the individual at risk for many things they are still too young to prepare for, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Once a child begins dating and becomes sexually active due to increased pressure, there can easily be a noticeable change within the family relationships. Adolescents become egocentric during puberty because of the maturing of the brain which increases their level of self-consciousness (Berger, 2011). The brain maturation also causes young individuals to act out, become more selfish and concerned of their own feelings, as well as experiment with drugs and alcohol. These acts and changes in behavior can drastically affect the parent-child relationship in a negative way. Parents and children often fight, the child refuses to listen and does what they want, and the parent then punishes the child for acting out. Adolescence is different among each individual, as every person develops at different rates and in different ways. The pressures associated with dating, sex, and family relationships during this time can be difficult for a child because it is such a drastic change all at once that it is difficult to handle.
     There are many stages that have affected middle childhood but yet it seems that each and every one of us gets through it. We have learned about the different development choices that go on during this stage of life and also about adolescent egocentrism and the different types of pressure that is going on in middle childhood.

Berger, K. S. (2011). The developing person through the life span (8th ed.). New York,       New York: Worth Publishers.

Elkind, D. (1967). Egocentrism in Adolescence. Child Development , 38, 1025-1034.

Kiran-Esen, B. (2012). Analyzing Peer Pressure and Self - Effiacy Expectations Among Adolescents. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal , 40 (8), 1301-1309.

O'Brien, L., Albert, D., Chein, J., & Steinberg, L. (2011). Adolescents Prefer More Immediate Awards when in the Prescence of their Peers. Journal of Research on Adolescence (Blackwell Publishing Limited) , 21 (4), 747-753.

Santrock, J. W. (2010). Children (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Infancy and Early Childhood

This was a Power Point Presentation. Click the link below to view.

Infancy and Early Childhood

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Life Span Development

Life Span Development

Developmental psychology studies patterns of growth and change over the course of a person’s life (McGraw-Hill, 2010). Psychologists have been developing theories to explain these patterns. Theories are important in developmental psychology for many reasons. Theories produce hypotheses, generate discoveries, and offer practical guidance (Berger, 2011). Theories in developmental psychology help psychologists understand how and why changes occur throughout the span of a person’s life.

Life Span Perspective of Development
Developmental psychologists developed the life span perspective. They believed that developmental changes occurred throughout the entire span of life (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Some developmental psychologists say that development occurs in stages while others do not. Urie Brenfenbrenner developed the ecological – systems approach in life span development (Berger, 2011). This approach examines all the systems around a person. This approach takes in account systems such as family, peers, school and social conditions. From this approach developmentalists take all contexts into account when studying a person’s development. Cultures each have beliefs and habits unique to them. Learning these beliefs and habits is a part of a person’s development. Some characteristics can be molded yet durable. Characteristics can be changed. Developmental psychologists spend time studying ages and stages of a person’s development. From these studies, different theories have been developed to explain human development. 

Theories of Life Span Development
Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
Sigmund Freud developed the psychoanalytic theory. His theory was centered on a person’s unconscious drives. Freud introduced the psychosexual stages, stating that development was characterized by sexual interest and pleasure centered on a certain body part (Berger, 2011). His theories on infantile sexuality is one reason his theories met resistance. In infancy, a human experiences the oral stage centered on the mouth. In early childhood, the anal stage is experienced and centered on the anus. The phallic stage develops during the preschool years and centers on the penis. According to Freud, there are two stages following the phallic: latency and genital. According to Freudian psychoanalysts, personality patterns are determined by how a person experienced and reacted to these stages (Berger, 2011). Since Freud did not believe that new stages developed during adulthood, he concluded that personalities were influenced by a person’s earlier stages. Unconscious conflicts such as smoking or attraction to an older person may be caused by problems reacting to a childhood stage (Berger, 2011).
Freud also had a stage theory for the development of personality. The three parts are the id, superego and ego. The id is developed during infancy. According to Freud, the id includes a person’s unconscious thoughts. The pleasure principle works within the id (McGraw-Hill, 2010). The superego develops during the phallic stage. The conscience forms during this stage and traits are learned from parents and society. The final stage is the ego, formed during adulthood. This part of personality includes the conscious self. The reality principle works with the ego. Defense mechanisms are used in the ego in order to control the id and the superego (Berger, 2011).  While some psychologists, like Freud, use stages to explain development, others do not.

            Psychologists subscribing to the behaviorism theories of development rejected the psychoanalytic theories. Behaviorism studies observable behavior and can also be called learning theories (Berger, 2011). Behaviorists did not subscribe to the stage theory or the unconscious theories. John Watson believed developmental psychologists should study only what they could see: observable behavior (Berger, 2011). He believed that irrational thoughts and hidden urges the psychoanalysts used in theories were not easily measured in developmental psychology. The behaviorist theories described the laws and processes by which a person learned. The most common process was by conditioning, or the way responses were linked to stimuli. The two most popular forms of conditioning were classical and operant.
            Ivan Pavlov performed the most popular experiment in classical conditioning. His study revealed the link between a stimulus and a response. In his study a stimulus is connected with a neutral stimulus, which had no meaning before. B.F. Skinner felt that classical conditioning explained some behavior. He performed operant conditioning research. In this conditioning, an action was followed by a reward or punishment. If a reward was given, it was more likely that the action would be repeated. However, if a punishment was received, it was more likely the action would not be repeated.

Effects of Heredity and Environment
Both heredity and environment influence the behavior of a person. The genetics that a person inherits may play a role on the way his or her brain functions in relation to behavior. A person’s outside influences may also play a role in how a person behaves. While some psychologists believe that either heredity or environment has the largest impact on behavior, there is a third group that have an interactionist view (McGraw-Hill, 2010). This view states that both factors play an equal role in behavior. Based on heredity, each person has a certain potential. However, based on environment, each person depends on outside influences in order to reach that potential. It is important for developmental psychologists to study both heredity and environment to understand how each factor influences a person’s behavior.

A person begins developing during the fetal stage before birth and continues developing until death (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Because of this view in developmental psychology,                                                               the expression “from womb to tomb” was coined. A person develops physically, cognitively and socially through the different stages in life. A person’s genetics influences his or her physical changes, cognitive changes as well as behavioral changes. A person’s environment influences his or her behavioral changes and is important in helping them achieve his or her genetic potential.


Berger, K. S. (2011). The developing person through the life span (8th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.

McGraw-Hill (2010). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). The world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/ Allyn & Bacon.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Monday, November 19, 2012



How a person communicates is a complex mental process. Grammar is used in this process. Grammar is defined as “the system of rules that determine how our thoughts can be expressed” (McGraw-Hill, 2011 p.174). Most people acquire the basics of communication without being aware. The process of language begins in infancy and progresses throughout the early years. The complexity of communication, as well as the cognitive processes involved in the development and use of language, is an important topic in cognitive psychology.

Language and Lexicon
Language is a method of communicating thoughts and feelings. Communicating through language is by a system of symbols, usually sounds, signs or written symbols, arranged according to rules of grammar (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). In order to understand the structure and rules of language, researchers study psycholinguistics. Psycholinguistics is the study of how language is “acquired, produced and used” (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011 p.230). Lexicon is also important to a person’s use of language. Lexicon is a mental dictionary of language (Willingham, 2007). The lexicon contains several representations of known words. These representations include pronunciation, spelling and part of speech. The lexicon aids a person in the matching process of a spoken word and its meaning.

Key Features of Language
Language is complex but has key characteristics (Williamson, 2009). Language has systematicity. This means that language has a regular, orderly method of communicating ideas, thoughts and emotions. Language is governed by rules. Language is structure dependent. There is a patterned structure as to how language is produced. Displacement is found in language (Williamson, 2009). Displacement allows a person to think of and communicate about something or someone that is not present. These characteristics can be found in all the languages of the world and make all languages similar.

Levels of Language Structure
There are four levels of language structure. These four levels are phonemes, morphemes, syntax and semantics. Phonemes are the smallest units of spoken language. These are sounds used to form words. Among the world’s languages, more than eight hundred phonemes have been identified (McGraw-Hill, 2011). However, only around fifty-two phonemes are used in the English language. Phonemes do not provide meaning; morphemes do. Morphemes are comprised of two or more phonemes (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). There are exceptions to this in the English language such as the words I and a. Morphemes are the words of a language. Morphemes can be singular or plural. Two morphemes can be combined to create words. The next level of language is syntax. In this level, sentences and phrases are formed. Each language has its own rules of how sentences are formed. In English, the adjective comes before the noun. However, in Spanish the noun comes before the adjective. Semantics is the fourth level of language. In this level, meaning is derived from words and sentences. This is commonly referred to as text. The rules of semantics allow a person to use words to express his or her thoughts (McGraw-Hill, 2011). 

Language Processing
Language comprehension precedes language production (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Language processing begins around three months old. At this time a baby begins to babble. Babbling is meaningless, speech like sounds and lasts until usually a year old. Researchers say that babies that babies can produce the sounds found in all languages as well as can distinguish among all the known phonemes (McGraw-Hill, 2011). As the babbling stage advances, the infant begins to sound more like the language spoken in their environment. The infant’s ability to recognize all the phonemes also decreases. Neurons in the brain reorganize to respond only to the specific phonemes routinely heard therefore specializing in their own language. Some studies show that if a child is isolated from communications have a difficulty learning the language. This deficit is difficult to overcome (McGraw-Hill, 2011). After age one, children stop producing sounds not in their language and learn the more complicated forms of language. A child’s vocabulary increases and they speak in telegraphic speech. Telegraphic speech is sentences where words not critical to the message are left out (McGraw-Hill, 2011). There are several reasons as to why language processing becomes difficult. One is differences in phonemes. This reason makes it difficult for a person to learn a different language. Word perception is another reason language processing is difficult. Words can be taken in different contexts. 

Language Acquisition Theories
There are three main theories of language acquisition (McGraw-Hill, 2011). The first of these is the Learning Theory. This theory suggests that language acquisition follows the principles of reinforcement and conditioning. However, this theory does not explain how children learn language without being reinforced or conditioned.  The second theory is the Nativist Theory. This theory states that a genetically determined, innate mechanism directs language acquisition. This means that a person has a natural instinct to learn language. Noam Chomsky developed the theory of universal grammar (McGraw-Hill, 2011). He believed that all the world’s languages share a common underlying structure. Chomsky also developed the theory that a person has a language-acquisition device (McGraw-Hill, 2011). This device was in the neural system of the brain. Neuroscientists have concluded that the ability to use language is tied to neurological developments (McGraw-Hill, 2011).  The third theory was the Interactionist theory. This theory states that language is developed through genetically predisposition and environment. The interactionist theory can be supported by research done on children who were isolated from language. These children have the genetic predisposition to learn language, but lack the environmental cues to aid their learning.

In conclusion, language is a complex process. Language acquisition begins soon after birth and continues well into childhood. Language processing is done through the learning of the levels of structure. It is believed that all languages have some similar characteristics. Cognitive psychologists research to understand the process of language and the structure of language. In fact, psychologists have devoted considerable time to the study of language (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Language is an important process in humans.


McGraw-Hill (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Williamson, G. (2009). Key Properties of Language. Retrieved from

Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: the thinking animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). the world of psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Brain, Cognitive Function, and Phineas Gage

The Brain, Cognitive Function and Phineas Gage

“For well over a century, scientists have recognized that all the wonders of the mind are the province of the brain” (Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, n.d., paragraph 1). Researchers have been studying what role the brain plays in cognitive function. The connection is more evident when the brain is dysfunctional (Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, n.d.). The Phineas Gage accident provides insight into the ways cognitive function is affected, even over a century later. Modern research provides a glimpse into the brain and functioning from injuries such as Gage’s.

The Brain and Cognitive Functions
Each part of the brain has a special role in cognitive functions (Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, n.d.). Some aspects of cognition that take place in the brain include perception, attention, emotion, planning learning, memory, thinking, and language. In order to study the role of the brain in these functions, researchers study normal brains and damaged brains. In normal brains the performance of cognitive tasks are compared to the deficits of performance in damaged brains (Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, n.d.). The results of these studies aid researchers in developing theories on how cognitive functions are organized within the brain. The Phineas Gage injury is one case researchers study to learn more about the brain and cognition.

Phineas Gage Accident
On September 13, 1848 Phineas Gage suffered a traumatic brain injury. While working as a foreman for the Rutland and Burlington railroad, he suffered the penetrating head injury. A four foot long iron rod went through his skull. The initial report was that both frontal lobes were damaged. However, using modern computerized tomography (CT) scanning on the skull, it has been reported that the left frontal lobe was the primarily affected area (Grieve, 2010). There are several functions of the frontal lobes. One function is the choosing between good and bad actions. Other functions include suppressing inappropriate social responses, understanding future consequences resulting from current actions and retaining long term memories. The Phineas Gage injury offered researchers much insight into the brain as related to cognitive function.

What was Learned about the Brain and Cognitive Function
   Traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) cause several changes in a person. These changes include behavioral, social, and emotional (Spitz, Rudzki,  & Maller, 2012). Before the accident, Gage was hard – working and cautious. After the accident, he became irresponsible, drank heavily, and drifted from one wild scheme to another (McGraw - Hill, 2011). Researchers believe this is due to injury to the association areas. The association areas are a major region of the cerebral cortex and the site of higher mental processes. The association areas control functions such as executive, planning, goal setting, judgment, and impulse control. There are personality changes after a type of injury like Gage’s. These changes include careless attitudes, taking risks, changes in sociability, unusual sexual habits as well as others (Grieve, 2010). People with these types of injuries have difficulties with functions like memory, information – processing speed and executive functions. These personality changes affect a person’s ability to make moral judgments. However, the person can still be able to reason logically.

Phineas Gage suffered from a traumatic brain injury that even in these days would be considered a sure fatality (Grieve, 2010). Phineas survived the injury but not without cognitive damage. Over the last century, researchers have learned more about Gage’s injury. Technology such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans has revealed more about the injury and parts of the brain affected. Because of Gage’s injury, researchers have learned more about the brain and how it affects cognitive function.

Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. (n.d.). Research in the CNBC. Retrieved from

Grieve, A. (2010). Phineas P Gage - 'The Man with the Iron Bar'. Trauma, 12(3), 171-174.

McGraw - Hill (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Spitz, G., Rudzki, J. L., & Maller, J. J. (2012). Association between cognitive performance and functional outcome following traumatic brain injury: A longitudinal multilevel examination. Neuropsychology, 26(5), 604-612. doi:10:1037/a0029239

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Defining Cognitive Psychology

In the beginning, psychology was defined as the study of the mind. With behaviorism, psychology was known as the study of behavior. Cognitive psychology once again brought the definition around as the study of the mind. Cognitive psychology focused on several different disciplines. Among these disciplines were psychology, linguistics, computer science, philosophy, anthropology, and neuroscience (Watrin & Darwich, 2012). Each discipline offered a different perspective on the subject of cognition. While behaviorism and cognitive psychology both aimed to explain mental processes, there were some differences that set the two apart.

Defining Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology is the field of psychology that emphasizes the study of mental processes (McGraw Hill, 2010). These processes include thinking, language, problem solving, knowing, reasoning, judging and decision making. Cognitive psychology concluded that humans were not pushed or pulled by environmental factors. Instead, humans sought out experiences, altered and shaped experiences and used mental processes to transform information (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Cognitive psychology also studied how people view and understand the world. Subjects wanted to describe the patterns and irregularities during the operation of his or her mind. There were several key milestones in the development of cognitive psychology.

Key Milestones in the Development of Cognitive Psychology
Criticisms of Behaviorism
In the 1950’s, there were problems brought forth in relation to behaviorism. Behaviorists focused more on observable behaviors and not on the importance of genetics. Behaviorism’s main emphasis was that behavior was primarily determined by environment (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Cognitive psychologists studied fixed – action patterns whereas behaviorists had no answers about them. Fixed – action patterns are complex behaviors engaged in with little to no practice or reward (Willingham, 2007). According to behaviorism, such behaviors should require more practice or reward. Chomsky raised the issue of language (Willingham, 2007). He stated that the behaviorists could not account for language. It was his belief that language was generative (Willingham, 2007). Behaviorism explained repeating a behavior after practice or reward. However, behaviorism could not explain displaying behaviors without practice or reward. The main criticism of behaviorism was that it could not explain language or strategies.

Information Processing
In the 19th century the brain was compared to a telephone switchboard. Cognitive psychologists compared it to a computer. Thus, it was believed that humans used representations and processes similar to computers. In using this metaphor, the term information was processing was created when explaining the mind. Information processing is the way people take in, use and store information (McGraw Hill, 2010). Cognitive psychologists concluded that humans take in information (through sight and hearing), transform information (by interpreting it in memory) and then put out information (by speech). When using the computer metaphor, behaviorists only study the screen, which is observable. Cognitive psychologists study the software, which describes the brain (Willingham, 2007).

Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence can be defined as “the pursuit of intelligent behavior by a computer” (Willingham, 2007, p 29). It can also be defined as “the programming of computer systems to simulate human thinking in making judgments and decisions” (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011, p 229). There are different types of artificial intelligence programs. One type is the Artificial Neural Network (ANNs). This program mimics human brain functioning. A second type carries out highly specific functions within a limited domain. Research has shown that it would be impossible for a computer to completely replace a human. In fact, many cognitive tasks that humans find easy are difficult to teach a computer (Wood, Wood,  & Boyd, 2011). Many aspects of language processing are difficult for a computer to handle.

There have always been links between brain structure and function. Neuroscience examines how the brain and the nervous system determine behavior (McGraw Hill, 2010). It also studies how a person’s body influences his or her behavior. The neuroscience research that is conducted helps us understand sensory experiences, states of consciousness, motivation and emotion, development through the life span, and physical and psychological health. The research in neuroscience has also led to the creation of medications and treatments for psychological health as well as physiological health (McGraw Hill, 2010). 

Importance of Behavioral Observation in Cognitive Psychology
Behavioral observation is important in cognitive psychology just as it is in behaviorism. Behavioral observation helps researchers test cognitive theories. Whereas behaviorists only studied observable behavior, cognitive psychologists studied mental processes. When studying these processes, researchers explained “how the unobservable processes interacted with the observable world” (Willingham, 2007). Instead of just creating theories of behavior, researchers now named the expected behavior if the cognitive theory was right. There are several types of research that can be used to test theories. These are descriptive, relational, and experimental research. Descriptive research does not provide clear data in cognitive psychology but it is a springboard for other works. Descriptive research is a person’s description of a behavior. This type of research can be collected by naturalistic observation, case studies or self – report. Relational research is closer to what cognitive psychologists need rather than descriptive research (Willingham, 2007). In relational research, two or more aspects of the world are examined and any relationship is determined. This type of research is about associations in behavior. In experimental research, one factor is altered while the effect of the alteration on the other factor is studied. These types of research are important in behavioral observation and helping cognitive psychologists test his or her theories in cognition.

At first, behaviorism was the primary perspective in psychology. In the 1950’s cognitive psychology was introduced and it gained momentum in the 1960’s (Willingham, 2007). The differences in between behaviorism and cognitive psychology became a central debate in the psychological field. Behaviorism focused on the study of observable behavior, however cognitive psychology had answers to questions that behaviorism did not. By studying mental processes such as thinking, language, and reasoning cognitive psychologists expanded the field of psychology to include more than what could be observed (McGraw Hill, 2010).


McGraw Hill (2010). Psychsmart. New York, NY: Author.

Watrin, J., & Darwich, R. (2012). On behaviorism in the cognitive revolution: Myth and reactions. Review Of General Psychology, 16(3), 269-282. doi:10.1037/a0026766

Willingham, D. T. (2007). Cognition: The thinking animal (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). The World of Psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Motivation and the Brain

Motivation and the Brain
     According to Dana Sterner, RN healthy eating is “the balance of moderation and nourishment from a wide variety of foods” (Sterner, 2009, p.38). The definition of healthy eating varies from person to person. There are biological and behavioral factors that contribute to the motivation for healthy eating. Several brain structures and hormones play a role in motivation (Braine, 2009). Intrinsic and extrinsic factors are involved in motivation. Hunger is the most powerful motivator for a person to consume food. The process of eating is to balance hunger with fullness and energy. Within this paper, I will discuss the brain structures involved in motivation as well as intrinsic and extrinsic factors in motivation to healthy eating.

Brain Structures involved in Motivation to Healthy Eating
     The limbic system is a system in the brain that plays a role in motivated behaviors, such as eating (Pinel, 2009). The hypothalamus is a brain structure that is important in the regulation of motivated behaviors. The hypothalamus receives information from the neural, endocrine, and metabolic signals (Braine, 2009). It then integrates them into behavioral, autonomic, and endocrine responses. In the 1940’s, Albert Hetherington and Stephen Ranson conducted experiments to suggest the role of the hypothalamus in relation to food intake regulation. These studies concluded that the hypothalamus did indeed play an important role. While some believe this to be a myth, the results of the studies named the lateral hypothalamic area as the feeding or hunger centre (Deckers, 2010). The ventromedial nucleus was named as the satiety centre.

Hormones Involved in Motivation of Healthy Eating
     Two key hormones related to motivation and eating are leptin and dopamine. Leptin is a hormone found centrally in the hypothalamus (Udden, Bjorntorp, Arner, Barkeling, Meurling,  & Rossner, 2003). Leptin is released by the adipose tissue in the body. This hormone is related to the energy storage from the consumption of food. Leptin is also related to the long term regulation of energy in our bodies as well as it decreases food intake. The amount of leptin correlates with a person’s body fat. Dopamine is a hormone related to the regulation of eating behaviors. Preclinical and imaging studies have shown that dopamine modulates factors of underlying motivation to eat (Volkow, Wang, Maynard, Jayne, Fowler, Zhu, Logan, Gatley, Ding, Wong,  & Pappas, 2002). Dopamine cells also predict rewards.

Intrinsic Factors Motivating Healthy Eating
Evolutionary Factors
     One intrinsic factor related to healthy eating is evolution. The primary purpose of eating is to supply the energy needed for the body to function (Pinel, 2009). Our body sends us the signals that it needs more energy. The hypothalamus, along with the hormone leptin, works while we eat to regulate the stored energy. Once our stored energy level is met, we receive the feeling of fullness. Some researchers are unsure about the full realm of evolution and healthy eating as in history people over ate to compensate for the unknowing of future food supplies (Pinel, 2009).

Genetic Factors
     Several genetic factors such as illnesses, diseases, allergies and predisposition to taste play a role in healthy eating. Those with a family history of an illness like diabetes may change his or her diet to accommodate the restraints. A person with an allergy to a food product such as eggs will have to find another alternative to gain the same nutrition. Humans are born with the innate taste for some foods over others (Deckers, 2010). A person’s like or dislike for a taste is helped formed by his or her genetics.

Extrinsic Factors Motivating Healthy Eating
Social Encouragement
     The bad dietary habits formed in childhood can lead to problems in adulthood. Therefore, it is important to promote healthy eating for not just adults but children as well. While there is a desire to be thin in today’s society, the proper eating habits can aid a person to being a healthy weight. The encouragement of others around us a valuable key in the motivation process of healthy eating. For the person who thrives of off positive reinforcement, social encouragement is vital. Surrounding yourself with people who accept you without the pressure of making unhealthy choices is also vital in motivation.

Positive Reinforcement
     When surrounded by a loving and accepting social circle, a person may decide to make the healthier lifestyle choices. Positive reinforcement from this circle is vital to helping one succeed in making the healthiest choices. When members of the social circle are making the same healthy choices, it is positive reinforcement for an individual to do the same. In today’s society where the unhealthy options are readily available, it takes the strong positive reinforcement to help keep one on track with motivation.

     Motivation is complex and multi-faceted. Both biological and environmental factors play a role in motivation as related to healthy eating. The brain structures of the limbic system and the hypothalamus aid in the behavior of eating as well as the processes of energy storage and fullness. The hormones leptin and dopamine are also biological factors that play a role in the behavior of eating. Evolution of humans as well as a person’s genetics is important in understanding how one eats and what one eats. When there is pressure in today’s society to make unhealthy decisions, a positive social circle as well as promotion of healthy choices is vital in motivating one to eat healthy. When these factors are combined together, the result can be a motivated individual who makes the proper choices to maintain a healthy eating lifestyle.


Braine, M. (2009). The role of the hypothalamus, part 1: the regulation of temperature and hunger. British Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, 5(2), 66-72.

Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: biological, psychological and environmental (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Pinel, J. (2009). Biopsychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon.

Sterner, D. (2009). What is healthy eating? RN, 72(6), 38.

Udden, J., Bjorntorp, P., Arner, P., Barkeling, B., Meurling, L., & Rossner, S. (2003). Effects of glucorticoids on leptin levels and eating behaviour in women. Journal of Internal Medicine, 253(2), 225-231.

Volkow, N., Wang, G., Maynard, L., Jayne, M., Fowler, J. S., Zhu, W., Logan, J., Gatley, S. J., Ding, Y., Wong, C., & Pappas, N. (2002). Brain dopamine is associated with eating behavior in humans. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(2), 136-142.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sources of Motivation

     Motivational speaker and former college football coach, Lou Holtz, once said, “Motivation determines what you do” (Holtz, 2012). Motivation is an important component of behavior. Motivation has biological, cognitive and social aspects (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Motivation comes by way of different sources and has different effects on people. Motivation is one reason why a person accomplishes what, or behaves the way that, he or she does. 

Motivation Defined
      Motivation is “all the processes that initiate, direct, and sustain behavior” (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011, p.337). Motivation is comprised of many aspects which are used to develop theories, or approaches, to explain the reasons for people’s behavior. These aspects include biological, cognitive and social (McGraw-Hill, 2011). Psychologists believe that motivation is comprised of three components, activation, persistence, and intensity. Activation consists of the first steps to achieving a goal. Persistence is the continued effort to achieve a goal. Finally, intensity is the focused energy and attention applied to achieving a goal. Activation, persistence and intensity are all involved in defining motivation.

Sources of Motivation
       Wood, Wood, & Boyd explains motives as being needs or desires that direct behavior toward a goal (2011). Motives can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Motives can come from primary drives or social motives. According to Deckers, the two basic sources of motivation are internal and external (2010). Internal sources may be biological variables or psychological variables. Biological variables pertain to characteristics of the brain or body, also called primary drives. Primary drives are unlearned motives. Examples of these are hunger or thirst. Psychological variables can include emotions or a person’s past experiences. Self – esteem is an example of a psychological variable. When a person has a desire to behave a certain way because it is satisfying is intrinsic motivation. An example is playing a game just for fun. However, extrinsic motivation is the desire to behave a certain way to gain an external reward. An example is playing a game for money. The money is the reward and becomes the motivator for playing the game well. External sources include environmental variables. Examples of external variables are jobs, bonuses, money, etc. Social motives are learned through experience and interactions with others.

Relationship between Motivation and Behavior
     Motivation is the force behind behavior. Motivational sources are what push or pull a person to behave a certain way (Deckers, 2010). Hunger is a basic human need. When a person feels hunger, it usually pushes them to eat. After eating, the hunger need is fulfilled. Hunger is the motivational variable that pushes the person towards the goal of fulfillment of a need. Motivational factors can be different for each person and the same factor can cause two people to behave differently. For example, two people both have the desire to have money. Person A, in order to fulfill that desire, gets a job. Person B, on the other hand, decides to steal money. Both had the same motivational desire. However, the two used the motivation to commit two different behaviors.

Motivation Exhibited in Behavior
      Motivation has a crucial role in behavior (Pessoa, 2009). Motivation is evident in most of the behavior around us. A student who wants good grades is motivated to study more. A woman who wants a man’s attention is motivated to dress and present herself in a way to draw the attention. A man desiring money is motivated to work harder. While these examples show positive motivation and behaviors, it can also be negative. A man who wants a woman’s attention may behave negatively to attempt to gain it. A person desiring more money may resort to illegal methods to obtain it. Motives drive a person to behave in a way to help him or her accomplish a goal, or fulfill a need.

     Motivation directs the behavior of humans in order to accomplish a goal. The sources of motivation can come from several different aspects. While some are motivated for internal reasons, others may be motivated for external reasons. Motives are the underlying component for the behaviors we exhibit. Understanding the sources of motivation is important in order to understand the behaviors.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gender Identity

       Gender identity is a complex and multi-dimensional element of a person (Egan & Perry, 2001). Gender identity is the self – identification as male or female. Gender identity, however, is not the same as sexual orientation (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2010). Both biological and environmental factors contribute to one’s gender identity. Many people have the assumption that there are male and female hormones that determine gender identity (Pinel, 2009). However, this is not the case. In this paper, I will discuss how hormones, as well as environment, affect one’s gender identity and behavior.

Biological Factors and Sexual Differentiation
        The human body consists of many hormones. Among them are androgens, estrogens, and progestins. Androgens and estrogens are both the most common classes of gonadal hormones. A third class of gonadal hormones is progestins. The most common progestin is progesterone. Progesterone prepares the uterus and breasts for pregnancy in females; however it is unclear of its purpose in males (Pinel, 2009). Although it is widely assumed that androgens are “male” hormones and estrogens are “female” hormones. In actuality, men and women have the same hormones although at different levels. These hormones also do not perform the same functions in both sexes.
        Males and females are both exposed to high levels of estrogens during the fetal stage. However, males are exposed to high androgen levels during the same period (Swabb, 2004). Studies on female humans show that an early exposure to male hormones can result in more masculine behaviors. In studies of men with low testosterone levels, it was discovered that they had female – like behavior patterns. In an animal study, male rats were castrated (Sue, Sue,  & Sue, 2010). Castration reduced the production of testosterone and as a result, the rats began displaying female – like behaviors.
       Not all current research supports the theory that sex hormones are the driving force behind one’s gender identity. There has been animal experimentation evidence supporting other biological factors. One such study supported the theory that dopaminergic neurons may develop functional sex functions when sex hormones are absent (Swabb, 2004). According to this research, the genes believed to play a role in gender identity are located on the recombining part of the Y chromosome. The two particular genes are ZFY and SRY, which both influence the testis. Also, both these genes are transcribed in the hypothalamus and frontal and temporal cortex in men. These genes are not found in women. This could possibly mean that sex – specific cell – intrinsic signals are needed for a full differentiation on male brains. Several biological factors can impact gender identity, such as neurohormonal factors, genetics and brain differences.

Environmental Factors and Sexual Differentiation
        Over the last thirty years, the assumptions of how men and women should act have changed. The masculinity model was developed in the early 1980’s (Burnett, 1995). This model labeled masculinity as having certain behavioral traits. These included decisiveness, independence, and competiveness. For many years, it was believed this is how men should act and women were to act more feminine.
        Some researchers conclude that parental encouragement impacts gender identity (Sue, Sue, & Sue, 2010). Theories include children whose parents allow and encourage behavior such as cross – dressing. Some believe that this encourages the child to identify with the opposite gender. Some theories conclude that young boys who play with dolls will identify with feminine behavior later on. This theory is also true for young girls who play with more masculine toys.
        An element of gender identity is to feel compatible with one’s gender group (Egan & Perry, 2001). When outside factors such as the desire to cross – dress or feeling more compatible with the opposite gender isolates a person from their own gender. They cannot identify with their own gender and feel more comfortable identifying as the opposite. These feelings can lead to Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Again, these feelings have no impact on their sexual preference, as they may still be heterosexual but would rather live as the opposite gender.
         The psychodynamic perspective holds the theory that gender identity is a result of childhood. When a person strays from the “norm” of gender behavior, it is believed that unconscious conflicts from childhood have caused the person to identify with the opposite gender. While many theorists and researchers have developed theories and conducted research, there is little evidence to support the environmental factors as having a large impact on gender identity.

Nature vs Nurture
            The debate of nature versus nurture has been debated since classical Greek times. It has been one of the most debated topics in psychology. Based upon my research, I believe that biological, or nature, has more influence on gender identity. Based upon the research studies I read, it seems that gender identity is influenced by a lack or excess of sex hormones. While I believe that biological factors have more influence on gender identity, I cannot absolutely rule out environmental factors. It is possible that both biological and environmental factors have a role on gender identity. I believe that there needs to be much more research done in this area to learn more about it. Then we can truly decide if gender identity is biological, environmental or both.

          Gender identity is important in the development of a person. If we are to believe that biological factors have an impact on gender identity, then our gender identity development begins in the fetal stage. Some research supports that sex hormones determines our identity. Other research supports other biological reasons for a person’s identity such as genetics or brain differences between the sexes. Then there is yet other research that supports environmental causes for a person’s gender identity. Discovering why a person identifies with a particular gender is important in order to provide therapy to those persons suffering from Gender Identity Disorder.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Case Study Analysis: The Case of Aunt Betty Who Lost Half her Body

The following is a Power Point Presentation done in collaboration by the team of T. Cross, M. Lewis, and myself. Please click the link to see the presentation.

Case Study Analysis: The Case of Aunt Betty Who Lost Half her Body

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use our work, please reference it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Male and Female Brains

What differences are known to exist between male and female brains?

Scientists are still researching the differences between the male and female brains as well as the effect of these differences on behavior. One difference is that men’s brains have a higher proportion of white matter than those of women. Men have a lower proportion of white matter in the left brain than in the right. In women the proportion is equal. There is also some research to support the theory that different areas of the brain are stimulated based on the task depending on sex. For example, when processing navigational information, the left hippocampus is stimulated in men. In women, this task stimulates the right parietal cortex and the right frontal cortex. There is also research to support the theory that men and women use different areas of the brain when searching for a location of a sound. The distribution of gray and white matter may also point to other differences between the sexes (Wood, Wood, & Boyd, 2011). For example, in men, the distribution of gray and white matter across the two hemispheres may explain their abilities in mental rotation of geometric figures. In women, the location of more gray matter in an area of the brain may result in higher emotional perception.

Wood, S. E., Wood, E. G., & Boyd, D. (2011). The World of Psychology (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Using someone else's work without giving proper credit, is plagiarism. If you use my work, please reference it.