Monday, February 27, 2012

Phobias and Addictions

Phobias and Addictions
            “Learning is any enduring change in the way an organism responds based on its experience.” (Kowalski & Westen, 2011, p. 164). According to our text, phobias and addictions are two emotional difficulties that can develop through learning (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Learning can take place through various different methods. Classical and operant conditioning are two common learning methods developed by Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner, respectively. The results of classical and operant conditioning can contribute to an individual’s ability to thrive and function; however, phobias and addictions can also develop as a result.
Phobias and Classical Conditioning
            Phobias are a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it. This desire can interfere with a person’s ability to work, socialize, or go about his or her daily routine. Researchers have different theories on the cause of phobias. Some theories conclude that phobias are the result of classical conditioning (Coelho & Purkis, 2009).
            Phobias develop through classical conditioning when one stimulus is paired with another resulting in a different response (Dingfelder, 2005). In 1920, John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner conducted a landmark study involving classical conditioning. In this study, they concluded that emotional responses could be conditioned, or learned (Little Albert). First, they frightened their subject, Little Albert, by making a loud noise behind him. Then, through many tests, they associated the noise to a white rat. Little Albert had become conditioned to be afraid of the rat even without the noise. Other phobias can be conditioned the same way. For example, a young child receives a shot at the doctor’s office and feels pain when injected with the needle. Over time, the child associates needles with pain and begins to cry at the sight of a needle. The child has been conditioned to have a phobia of needle.
Addictions and Operant Conditioning
            The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a primary chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry” (Definition of Addiction). There are many types of addictions such as gambling, substances, pornography, food and sex. Addictions can become so strong to the point they can also interfere with a person’s normal life. The basis behind operant conditioning is that behavior is controlled by its consequences (Kowalski & Westen, 2011).
            An addiction develops when a behavior is met with reinforcement. If the reinforcement is positive to the person, the behavior becomes more frequent. This satisfies the brain reward portion of the addiction definition. An example of addiction developed by operant conditioning is alcoholism. A person drinks alcohol (behavior) and begins to feel a “high” (reinforcement). The person begins to drink to feel the “high”. This person has become addicted to alcohol through operant conditioning. The drive the person wanted (the “high”) is satisfied and he or she feels fulfilled as explained in Theory of Addiction (West, 2006, p. 98).
Distinguishing Between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning
            Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are two major theories of behavior. While both have some similarities such as being methods to modify behavior and the use of extinction, they also have differences. Classical conditioning involves a natural stimulus paired with a response. In classical conditioning, a previously neutral response creates the response even without the presence of the natural stimulus. Operant conditioning involves an association between a behavior and its consequence. Classical conditioning places a neutral signal before a reflex whereas operant conditioning applies the reinforcement or punishment after a behavior. Classical conditioning focuses on involuntary behaviors whereas operant conditioning focuses on voluntary behaviors. While the two are very different, they are both important in the learning process.
Extinction in Classical and Operant Conditioning
            Extinction is the gradual weakening of a conditioned response that results in the behavior decreasing or disappearing. Phobias and addictions are two difficulties that can affect general living. Therefore, therapy should involve eliminating these from the person’s mind. While not all phobias are developed through classical conditioning, those that are can be eliminated by extinction. In classical conditioning, extinction refers to the process by which a conditioned response is weakened by the presentation of the conditioned stimulus without the unconditioned stimulus (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). In the example of Little Albert, his phobia of the white rat could be decreased by the presentation of the loud noise without the white rat being presented.
            Addictions developed through operant conditioning can also be eliminated by extinction (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Extinction happens when the reward is no longer satisfying. In the alcoholism example, once the alcohol no longer provides the “high” feeling desired, the person will no longer drink and the behavior will be extinguished. Major addictions may need more therapy than just basic extinction.  Other behavioral therapy methods may be used to solicit the extinction of addiction.
            There are many emotional difficulties a person may experience. Two that behavioral researchers have studied are phobias and addictions. Both of these can affect a person’s life in very negative manners. Classical and operant conditioning are two methods in which learning can occur. Some researchers believe that phobias can be developed through classical conditioning and addictions can be developed by operant conditioning. Just as phobias and addictions can be caused by these methods, extinction can help reverse them.

Coelho, C., & Purkis, H. (2009). The origins of specific phobias: Influential theories and current perspectives. Review Of General Psychology, 13(4) , 335-348.

Definition of Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2012, from American Society of Addiction Medicine:

Dingfelder, S. (2005). Distinguishing between phobias. Monitor on Psychology, 36(7), , 98.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Little Albert. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2012, from Sweet Briar College Department of Psychology:

West, R. (2006). Theory of Addiction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

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

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fundamentals of Psychology

       The brain is a complex structure. Psychology is an attempt to study and better understand the brain in relation to one’s behavior. The science of psychology has evolved through time. Researchers have developed “schools,” or perspectives, of psychology. These include structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, psychoanalysis, humanistic, and cognitive. Researchers have also used a biological - based view to understand psychology called evolutionary psychology.
      Structuralism was considered the first school of psychology. Edward B. Titchener developed structuralism, basing it upon Wilhelm Wundt’s work in psychology. One of structuralism’s main points was that it focused on internal processes such as thoughts or feelings. Structuralism focused on the components of mental processes rather than the process itself. Another point of structuralism is that those who studied it believed that the mind and body were distinct from one another; the two were not to act upon one another (Pillsbury, 1934). Titchener believed that experiences could be broken down into smaller components. Structuralism used introspection in its research. Introspection is where subjects verbally reported what they were thinking at the moment (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). This is the process of looking in on one’s mind. Structuralism influenced the development of experimental psychology.
      Structuralism had its criticisms. From those criticisms, functionalism was formed. Functionalism attempted to explain mental processes into a more systematic manner by relating them to a physiological process (Carr, 1930). Functionalists focused on the whole situation rather than the smaller components (Pillsbury, 1934). Functionalists also believed that consciousness served a function (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Functionalism focused more on explaining the mind whereas structuralism focused on describing the mind. Functionalism influenced behaviorism and applied psychology as well as the educational system.
         John Watson was influential in the development of behaviorism. Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner were also important in behaviorism. Pavlov’s experiments in classical conditioning and Skinner’s experiments in operant conditioning played a role in supporting the beliefs of behaviorism. In behaviorism, the focus is the relationship between external events and observable behaviors (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). Observable behavior is the main factor in which behaviorism is based upon. Another belief is that behaviors are acquired through learning. Watson’s stance was that experimental observation was the method by which behavior could be studied. Behaviorists thought behavior could be understood without reference to thoughts or feelings. In fact, Watson did not believe that mental life existed in the same manner as his predecessor’s believed (Moore, 2011).
         Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis has three basic components to its beliefs. First, a person’s thoughts and feelings determine his or her actions. Second, many thoughts and feelings occur in a person’s unconscious mind. Third, a person’s conscious thoughts may conflict with his or her unconscious thoughts.  Freud believed that a person has unconscious thoughts that are the basis for a person’s conscious thoughts. Freud also believed that the human mind was composed of three elements. These are the id, ego and superego (Renner, Morrissey, Mae, Feldman, & Majors, 2011). The id is a person’s unconscious that works to satisfy a person’s basic needs and desires. The superego is the ideals a person has acquired from external sources. The superego works to suppress the urges of the id and to make the ego behave morally. The ego mediates the demands of the id, superego and reality. The ego also prevents a person from acting on the urges of the id and works to achieve balance between moral standards and the idealistic standards of the superego.
Humanistic Psychology
         Humanistic psychology emphasizes the role of the individual rather than unconscious thought. Humanistic psychologists believe that people are innately good. They believe that a person’s mental problems result from a deviation from the natural tendency of being good. A humanistic psychologist focuses on an individual’s potential as well as his or her growth and self-actualization (Renner, Morrissey, Mae, Feldman, & Majors, 2011). Unlike the previous schools of psychology, the humanistic approach considers environmental factors as well as internal thoughts. Even today humanistic psychology influences therapy, education and healthcare.
Cognitive Psychology
Cognitive psychology studies mental processes. This includes how people think, perceive, remember and learn. Cognitive psychologists study memory and decision making. Cognitive psychologists, like behaviorists, believe that organisms respond to the environment and have predictable output (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). However, unlike behaviorism, cognitive psychology focuses on both observable behaviors and internal mental states. Unlike psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology uses research methods. Cognitive psychology is experimental in nature. Cognitive psychologists use experimental procedures to study mental processes at work (Kowalski & Westen, 2011).

Evoultionary Psychology
     Evolutionary psychology focuses on biologically – based mechanisms that evolved in a species. Evolutionary psychologists believe that many human behavior tendencies evolved through time (Biological Foundations of Behavior: Evolution, Genetics, and The Brain). Neurons are the basic units of the nervous system. Neurons help coordinate functions of the body through electrical and chemical communication (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). There are three types of neurons: sensory, motor, and interneuron. Evolutionary psychologists believe these units contribute to the way a person responds through mental process.

Psychology has evolved and changed over time. According to many of the founders of psychology, many factors contribute to the way a person’s brain works. Whether it is biological in origin as the evolutionary psychologists believe or if mental processes are caused by a person’s unconscious as psychoanalysis psychologists believe, a person’s brain is a complex structure.

Biological Foundations of Behavior: Evolution, Genetics, and The Brain. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20,                          2012, from McGraw-Hill Higher Education: http://highered.mcgraw-

Carr, H. (1930). Psychologies of 1930. Clark University Press.

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Moore, J. J. (2011). BEHAVIORISM. Psychological Record, 61(3) , 449-464.

Pillsbury, W. B. (1934). The fundamentals of psychology (3rd ed.) . MacMillan Co.

Renner, T., Morrissey, J., Mae, L., Feldman, R., & Majors, M. (2011). Psychsmart. New York, NY: The McGraw - Hill Companies, Inc.

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

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Personal Responsibility and College Success

            Michael Korda, editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster once said "Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility" (Quotes on Responsibility). Personal responsibility can be defined as taking responsibility for one’s actions, including accepting the consequences of those actions. Responsibility is important to all learning and developing (Turning Teaching Into Learning: The Role of Student Responsibility in the Collegiate Experience ). Many factors contribute to a person’s eventual success in college. However, the student has a personal responsibility for his or her success. While families and instructors have some effect on a person’s success, each individual is personally responsible in his or her achievement in college.          
             One way to look at personal responsibility is to see it as responding wisely to opportunities and challenges (Downing, 2011). Persons with personal responsibility do not wait for other things, such as people or luck, to make choices for them. An important part of personal responsibility is choice. Accepting personal responsibility in one’s life means he or she takes control of the decisions in his or her life. One example is studying for a test. A student who has assumed personal responsibility will create a time schedule and study for the upcoming test. A student who has not accepted personal responsibility will not study for the test. That student will hope that he or she will be lucky and still get a good grade. In a person’s life, he or she can be one of two things when it comes to personal responsibility. A person can be either a “creator” or a “victim.” A creator accepts that things are not working one way and will change them to gain success. A victim will not accept when things are not working and will continue doing the same things. A victim will be the person making excuses for his or her failures. Without personal responsibility, a person’s life would be shaped by outside factors rather than internal factors, including the desire to succeed.
            When a person enters adulthood, he or she has more personal responsibility in his or her life. With personal responsibility comes the freedom to make one’s own choices. The choices made affect a person’s goals. With this in mind, one can conclude that the choices a person makes will affect his or her success in college, whether negatively or positively.  Some students use excuses to advert the responsibility of his or her failures from them. Excuses are self-serving explanations, or accounts (Schlenker, Pontari, & Christopher, 2001). According to some books and journals, people should be taught when they fail to shift responsibility from themselves to independent factors they cannot control. By using excuses, personal responsibility is reduced. When personal responsibility is reduced, performance is lowered. When entering college, the student has a responsibility to study, do his or her own work and maintain satisfactory grades. These responsibilities are critical for college success; therefore a student should take personal responsibility for them. As George Washington Carver said, “Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses” (Quotes on Responsibility).
        Families and instructors play a minor role in a student’s success in college. Parents, siblings, spouses, and other family members want to see the student succeed. They usually will do what they can to help the student in his or her academics. This can include helping them study, ensuring they have the quietness and space to study, or paying for school or supplies. According to one article, the level of a parent’s education plays a role in a student’s college success (Goodman, et al., 2011). It is also believed that a student’s interaction with instructors and other students also plays a minor role in a student’s success (Goodman, et al., 2011).  A thorough instructor who is available to his or her students is more likely a better influence on a student’s success than an instructor who teaches the bare minimum. The University of Alabama Center for Academic Success webpage also believes that personal responsibility and not others in a student’s life is the key to college success. The university’s webpage says friends, family, and faculty may advise a student but the final decision to accept the responsibility is the student’s choice (Causes of Failure in College ). Although families and instructors can help a student succeed, the ultimate responsibility falls on the student to study and do his or her work.
         The most important reason each individual is personally responsible in his or her achievement in college is motivation to succeed. Motivation can be defined as the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. According to the journal article, A Study of University Students’ Motivation and Its Relationship with Their Academic Performance, “student motivation is the element that leads student’ attitudes towards the learning process” (Afzal, Ali, Khan, & Hamid, 2010, p. 81). Two deans of Elmhurst College say that student motivation is the difference between students making his or her education a priority or not (Crone & MacKay, 2007). According to them, students must choose to focus their time and energy into college to be motivated.  There are different types of motivators. One type is intrinsic, or motivation from the inside. Intrinsic motivation is a major component to human nature (Goodman, et al., 2011). People with high intrinsic motivation usually have an interest and enjoyment in the task. They also usually are competent and self-determined. An example of an intrinsic motivator is the personal satisfaction of achieving a goal. The second type of motivator is extrinsic, or motivation from the outside. An example of an extrinsic motivator is a promotion at work upon completing a degree. Both of these motivators can drive a person to succeed in college. Both types of motivators can influence a student to take personal responsibility for his or her success.
        In conclusion, although families and instructors have some effect on a student’s success, each individual is personally responsible in his or her achievement in college for two main reasons. First, no one else can be responsible for a person’s success in college except him or her. Second and most important, is because of individual motivation to succeed. Personal motivation and responsibility are the two main driving forces behind a student’s desire to succeed.

 Works Cited

Afzal, H., Ali, I., Khan, M., & Hamid, K. (2010). A Study of University Students' Motivation and Its Relationship with Their Academic Performance. International Journal Of Business & Management, 5(4) , 80-88.

Causes of Failure in College . (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2012, from The University of Alabama :

Crone, I., & MacKay, K. (2007). Motivating Today's College Students. Peer Review, 9(1) , 18-21.
Downing, S. (2011). On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.

Goodman, S., Keresztesi, M., Mamdani, F., Mokgatle, D., Musariri, M., Pires, J., et al. (2011). An investigation of the relationship between students' motivation and academic performance as mediated by effort. South African Journal Of Psychology, 41(3) , 373-385.

Quotes on Responsibility. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2012, from Leadership Now:

Schlenker, B. R., Pontari, B. A., & Christopher, A. N. (2001). Excuses and Character: Personal and Social Implications of Excuses. Personality & Social Psychology Review (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates), 5(1) , 15-32.

Turning Teaching Into Learning: The Role of Student Responsibility in the Collegiate Experience . (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2012, from The National Teaching and Learning Forum:

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