CRITICAL THINKING - Critical thinking is a process of assessing and judging some claim or idea on the basis of well-supported evidence. A simple approach to critical thinking involves five steps: 1) what am I being asked to believe; 2) is there evidence to support it; 3) is there a different interpretation; 4) what evidence would help me to decide which interpretation is best; and finally, 5) what is the most reasonable conclusion?
RESEARCH DESIGNS - The scientific method involves measuring and describing observations in order to test an hypothesis. We may then propose a theory to explain the relationships between those observations. The scientific method follows a standard procedure: 1) formulate a testable hypothesis, 2) select a research design, 3) collect data, 4) analyze the data and draw conclusions, and 5) report the findings. Psychologists use a variety of designs to collect their data.
Naturalistic observation involves careful, sometimes prolonged, observation of behavior without interfering with the behavior of the subjects.
The case study is an intensive study of an individual, group, or situation.
Surveys provide broad portraits of large groups. A survey relies on questionnaires or interviews to gather information about behavior, attitudes, opinions, etc.
Experiments involve manipulating variables under controlled conditions and then measuring possible changes in other variables. Only experimental research allows you to make cause-and-effect statements about the relationship between the variables (e.g., does overcrowding cause aggression?).
A simple experiment involves manipulating one independent variable to determine its effect on one dependent variable. The experimental group is exposed to the special condition of the independent variable, but the control group is not. It is important to try to eliminate the effects of any confounding variables, and this is best done by beginning with a random sample of subjects and then placing them in each group by random assignment.
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS - Statistics are mathematical techniques that allow us to organize, summarize, and interpret numerical data.
Descriptive statistics are used to summarize and organize data so they can be more easily understand.
Measures of central tendency include the mode, median and mean. These measures provide us with a handy "average" number for the data set. Measures of variability, such as the range or standard deviation, help to describe the dispersion or spread of the data (in other words, how "average" is an "average" score likely to be?).
Certain psychological data, such as IQ or SAT/ACT scores, fall into what is known as a normal distribution. When this occurs, that data can reasonably be converted into percentile scores, a measure of the percentage of scores which fall below a particular score (e.g., if you scored in the 50% percentile on the SAT or ACT, you earned an average score).
A correlation coefficient is a number that represents the degree of relationship ("co-relation") between two variables.
Inferential statistics are used to interpret data and draw conclusions (in other words, to determine if an independent variable had a statistically significant effect on a dependent variable).
ETHICS - The
American Psychological Association provides ethical guidelines that
prescribe standards of conduct for the professional work of psychologists in
their roles as researchers, clinicians, and teachers (click on link to see
return to top
CELLS OF THE NERVOUS SYSTEM ? Neurons are individual cells in the nervous system which can communicate or interact with one another. Glial cells provide a variety of essential support functions for the neurons.
Neurons have four basic regions. The dendrites receive incoming information, the cell body supports the metabolism of the cell and processes information, the axon transmits signals over long distances, and the terminal buttons directly transmit the signals from one neuron to the next. Axons are often covered in a myelin sheath so they can transmit signals faster and more efficiently.
Neurons have a resting potential when they are relatively inactive. When they are excited, neurons generate an action potential, which travels along the axon. When the action potential reaches the synapse, the connection between neurons, chemical neurotransmitters are released. These neurotransmitters bind to receptors on the neuron receiving the signal, which leads to a postsynaptic potential and then, if the signal was strong enough, a change in the rate of action potentials in the receiving cell.
THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
The peripheral nervous system (PNS) consists of all parts of the nervous system that lie outside the brain and spinal cord. It is divided into the somatic division and the autonomic division.
The somatic nervous system makes contact with the environment. Nerves that carry information from the receptors to the brain and spinal cord are known as afferent (sensory) nerves; those that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the muscles are known as efferent (motor) nerves.
The autonomic nervous system controls our organs and glands in ways that regulate bodily functioning. The sympathetic division mobilizes the body in times of stress or danger (the so-called fight-or-flight response); the parasympathetic division is responsible for returning the body to a restful or balanced state when fight-or-flight responses are no longer needed.
The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord.
A variety of instruments have been developed to study brain function and anatomy in living organisms (usually people). The electroencephalogram (EEG) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans provide information on brain activity. Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provide information on brain structure (and brain damage).
The brain can be divided into three major divisions: the hindbrain, midbrain, and forebrain.
The hindbrain, the oldest part of the brain, includes the medulla (respiration and circulation) and cerebellum (balance, posture, muscle tone, finely coordinated movements).
The midbrain includes the dopamine systems (Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia) and the reticular formation (sleep, wakefulness).
The forebrain controls the most complex psychological functions, such as emotion, intentional movement, consciousness, thought, and language. The thalamus relays information to and from the cerebral cortex, the hypothalamus maintains the basic biological needs of the body, the limbic system controls emotion, and the basal ganglia mediate sensorimotor integration.
The cerebral cortex forms two cerebral hemispheres, connected by the corpus callosum, which mediate complex mental processes and consciousness. The cerebral hemispheres can be grossly divided in two ways, either into four lobes (the frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes), or into functionally distinct areas of sensory, motor, or association cortex.
Split-brain studies have suggested that the cerebral hemispheres are functionally distinct. The left hemisphere is somewhat more analytical and controls speech. Damage to either Broca's area or Wernicke?s area in the left hemisphere can result in speech disorders known generally as aphasia. The right hemisphere is more holistic and is involved in visuospatial skills, emotion, and music.
LEARNING - Learning is a relatively permanent change in behavior or knowledge that results from experience. Learning is often referred to as conditioning.
CLASSICAL CONDITIONING - Classical conditioning was described by the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, and Pavlov's dogs are more famous than most influential psychologists or their theories.
Classical conditioning occurs when a neutral stimulus (NS) is "paired" with an unconditioned stimulus (US) capable of eliciting an unconditioned response (UR). Learning is demonstrated when the NS elicits the response by itself; the stimulus and response are then identified as a conditioned stimulus (CS) and its subsequent conditioned response (CR).
After conditioning has occurred, if the CS is repeatedly presented without the US, the CR will undergo extinction. If extinction is followed by a time-out, we often observe spontaneous recovery of the CR.
Stimulus generalization has occurred when a CR occurs to stimuli similar to but different than the CS. In contrast, stimulus discrimination refers to the ability to distinguish between CS's that predict the US and those that do not.
OPERANT CONDITIONING - Operant conditioning is most commonly associated with the American psychologist B.F. Skinner. It is a type of learning in which the consequences of a behavior determine the likelihood of that behavior occurring again.
According to Skinner, an operant is a behavior which has some effect on the world. The consequence of that effect can be reinforcing or punishing. Positive reinforcers are desired events or stimuli that are presented after the target response occurs (e.g., you get paid for working). Negative reinforcers are events or stimuli that are removed because a response has occurred (e.g., going inside at night protects you from mosquitoes). ALL REINFORCERS INCREASE THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THE TARGET RESPONSE WILL OCCUR IN THE FUTURE A punisher has the opposite effect of a reinforcer. Positive punishment refers to negative consequences that follow the target response (such as physical punishment); negative punishment refers to the removal of reinforcers following the target response (such as grounding a teenager). PUNISHMENT ALWAYS REDUCES THE LIKELIHOOD THAT THE TARGET RESPONSE WILL OCCUR IN THE FUTURE.
Primary reinforcers are stimuli or events that are inherently reinforcing (e.g., food, water, sex); secondary reinforcers are stimuli that acquire reinforcing properties due to their association with primary reinforcers (e.g., money).
Shaping is the process of reinforcing successive approximations of a desired behavior. Once the desired behavior has been learned it can effectively be maintained with continuous reinforcement, but intermittent or partial reinforcement results in behavior more resistant to extinction. Ratio schedules provide reinforcement after a certain number of responses; interval schedules provide reinforcement for the first response occurring after a certain period of time. These schedules can be fixed or variable.
OBSERVATIONAL LEARNING - Observational learning, a.k.a. social learning, occurs when one organism observes the behavior of others (called models) and changes its behavior as a result. Albert Bandura, who described this type of learning, created a continuing controversy when he and his colleagues published an article linking TV violence to real-life violence.
MEMORY - Although difficult to define, memory involves structures and/or processes which allow us to store the results of learning for future use.
THE NATURE OF MEMORY
Information processing models compare memory to computer systems. Encoding (forming a memory code), storage (maintaining encoded information over time), and retrieval (recovering information from memory) are all essential aspects of memory function.
According to the levels-of-processing model, encoding is influenced by how deeply we process incoming information. More deeply processing information (e.g., elaborative rehearsal rather than maintenance rehearsal) results in longer-lasting memory codes.
Storage most likely involves different memory systems. The Atkinson-Shiffrin model focuses on sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory.
Short-term memory, or working memory, has a limited capacity (about 7 chunks of information) of relatively brief duration.
Long-term memory appears to distinguish between several types of information. Procedural memories are relied on during skilled actions. Declarative memory handles two types of factual information: 1) semantic memory is our fund of general knowledge; whereas 2) our personal experiences are stored in episodic memory.
When attempting to recall sequential information (e.g., a list of words in their original order), we tend to remember more words at the beginning of the list (the primacy effect) and at the end of the list (the recency effect). The recency effect comes from short-term memory, but the primacy effect can only occur if some of the early information was successfully transferred to long-term memory.
Retrieval from long-term memory can be aided by the presence of appropriate cues. These cues can make recognition tasks easier than recall tasks. Retrieval can also be dependent upon the conditions under which the information was learned, a phenomenon called either context-dependent or state-dependent memory.
A fascinating line of research, most commonly associated with Elizabeth Loftus, has demonstrated that people routinely construct and/or reconstruct memories. Serious errors resulting from this process can create false memories that seem real to the person. This is a normal process, but one which can have serious implications when individuals are called upon to provide eye-witness testimony in a courtroom.
Decay theory proposes that forgetting occurs as memory traces fade with time. Interference theory proposes that people forget information because of competition from other material. Retroactive interference occurs when new information replaces old information (e.g., you study biology just before your psychology exam, and then you forget all the psychology you studied the day before). Proactive interference occurs when old information makes it difficult to learn new information (e.g., continuing to put last year as the date on your checks in January).
INTELLIGENCE - Intelligence itself is difficult to define, but it appears to involve three basic components: general knowledge, the ability to efficiently use that knowledge (to "think" or reason about a problem), and the ability to adapt one's reasoning to different situation.
Spearman's g refers to a single, general component of intelligence that underlies all cognition and problem solving. Perhaps the most popular current model of intelligence (at least in psychology) is Sternberg's triarchic theory of intelligence, in which he proposes that intelligence consists of three components: analytical, practical, and creative intelligences. There is also a popular theory of intelligence from a renowned professor of education. Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences theory proposes that there are at least seven distinct components of intelligence.
INTELLIGENCE TESTING - Psychological tests are standardized measures of a sample of a person's behavior. They are typically use to measure intelligence or personality (especially abnormal personality and/or mental illness). Here we will address the basic elements of a good test, and then look at intelligence. Personality testing will be presented in Module 7.
Standardization refers to administering and scoring a test under the same conditions each time it is used. Norms are scores obtained by a relatively large sample of similar people on the same test, thus providing a basis for comparing individual results to others.
A test has reliability if it yields relatively consistent or repeatable results. Validity tells us whether the test actually measures what we intended it to measure.
The most famous intelligence tests are the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale and the various Wechsler Scales (the WAIS and WISC scales). The Stanford-Binet was designed to identify a child's mental age, a measure indicating how the child's performance compared to other children of the same age. The intelligence quotient (IQ) is calculated by dividing an individual's mental age by their chronological age and then multiplying by 100. The Wechsler tests were designed to provide scores both on a verbal scale and on a performance scale. Interpreting the results involves looking at both the overall performance and any significant differences between the two scales.
DIVERSITY IN MENTAL ABILITIES
Creativity involves producing novel, effective solutions to problems. It is not highly correlate with IQ scores, because it appears to require divergent thinking, rather than convergent thinking. Gifted individuals have a high IQ, and probably other qualities such as creativity and/or leadership. Mental retardation refers to below average general mental ability and deficiencies in adaptive skills.
DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY - Developmental psychologists study the course and causes of changes that occur throughout a person's life-span, from conception to death.
BASIC ISSUES IN DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
Developmental psychologists are interested in the degree to which development results from nature (heredity) and/or nurture (environmental factors). Maturation refers to changes that are programmed according to biological timetables. Long-term research projects in which the same participants are observed or tested repeatedly are called longitudinal studies. Studies that observe or test people of different ages at the same time are called cross-sectional studies. Groups composed of people born in the same year are called cohorts.
Jean Piaget provided the first major theory on the cognitive development of children. Piaget theorized that children are guided by schemas, mental images or generalizations about the world. As children experience new situations, they try to assimilate new information into their existing schemas or, if necessary, to accommodate their schemas so that the new information can fit. He further described four stages of cognitive development and their corresponding major achievements: the sensorimotor stage and object permanence; the preoperational stage and symbolic representation; the concrete operational stage and conservation; and the formal operational stage and abstract thinking.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Differences in temperament, a persons characteristic mood, activity level, and emotional reactivity, are evident in the first few weeks of life. Based on temperament, there appear to be three types of children: easy children, slow-to-warm-up children, and difficult children.
Attachment refers to a close, emotional bond of affection occurring between two people, usually a child and an adult. Separation anxiety is a form of emotional distress seen in many infants when they are separated from the people they are attached to. A famous set of studies by Harry and Margaret Harlow demonstrated the importance of contact comfort in the development of attachment. Infants typically develop one of three attachment types: secure, anxious-ambivalent, or avoidant.
Day care does not appear to cause any problems for the development of attachment between children and their parents. Indeed, quality day care may prove beneficial for some children.
Care givers raise children with certain "parenting styles." Authoritarian parents shape and control their children according to a set standard. Authoritative parents know that they have more knowledge, skill, control, resources, and physical power than their children, yet they believe that the right of parents and children are reciprocal. Permissive parents demonstrate less control than others because they believe that children must learn how to behave through their own experience or because they do not take the time to discipline their children.
Erik Erikson provided a theory on the development of personality based on psychosocial crises that occur throughout the life span. These eight crises are: trust vs. mistrust; autonomy vs. shame and doubt; initiative vs. guilt; industry vs. inferiority; identity vs. role confusion; intimacy vs. isolation; generativity vs. stagnation; and integrity vs. despair.
Lawrence Kohlberg described three primary levels of moral development: the preconventional level involves conventions or standards set by others; the conventional level involves internalized standards and values; and the postconventional level at which we achieve "true" morality.
With the exception of Erikson's theory, little attention has been paid to adult development. Within our constantly changing society it is difficult to identify specific stages of development or life experiences that people can expect to encounter in young or middle adulthood. Two events that are likely to occur, but in different ways and at different times, are marriage and parenthood. It is also becoming more common these days for adults in midlife to be caught between caring for their not yet independent children and their aging parents, creating a so-called "sandwich" generation.
With aging there may be a decline in fluid intelligence, the basic ability to process information. However, crystallized intelligence, the ability to retrieve and use information that has been learned and stored, does not decrease with normal aging.
Dementia is a condition of general intellectual decline involving loss of memory and disorientation. Alzheimer's disease is a degenerative brain pathology involving progressive loss of intelligence, memory, and general awareness.
DEATH, DYING, AND BEREAVEMENT
Death is the final event in a person's life. Elisabeth K'ler-Ross identified five stages that terminally ill patients typically go through in dealing with and understanding death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The emotional and role changes that follow a death are called bereavement. Social support is a key ingredient in successfully coping with death and bereavement. Hospice can be either a special care facility and/or a process supported in your own home where terminally ill patients and their families are given warm, friendly, personalized care in preparation for death.
PERSONALITY - Personality refers to an individual's unique pattern of enduring psychological and behavioral characteristics, which allow us to identify the differences between people.
PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACHES - Sigmund Freud developed the first psychodynamic theory of personality development. Significant modifications include the emphasis on social interactions by Alfred Adler, and Karen Horney's attempts to deal with female development in a less negative and non-sexist manner.
Freud proposed that the mind consists of three separate but interacting elements: the id, ego, and superego. The id operates on the pleasure principle, whereas the ego operates on the reality principle. In addition, our mind functions at different levels of awareness. The conscious consists of whatever we are aware of at a given time. The preconscious contains material just beneath the surface of awareness. The unconscious contains thoughts, memories, and desires that we are not aware of, but which exert great influence on behavior.
Freud believed that our behavior results from a series of intrapsychic or psychodynamic conflicts, based on our attempts to control two primary biological urges: sex and aggression. Anxiety arises when these unacceptable urges of the id threaten to enter into our conscious mind. We protect ourselves from anxiety and from these id impulses by using defense mechanisms, which are largely unconscious reactions that protect us from anxiety and guilt.
According to Freud, the development of personality progresses through the following psychosexual stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. If we fail to resolve the fundamental conflict at each of these stages, we become fixated in that stage.
TRAIT APPROACHES - Personality traits describe stable, predictable ways that people respond to different situations, which are present in different degrees in each individual.
Gordon Allport described three types of traits. A cardinal trait is a dominant trait that characterizes nearly all of a person's behavior. Central traits are prominent, general dispositions that describe our basic personality. Secondary traits are characteristics that guide our behavior in more specific situations, rather than influencing most of our general behavior.
Raymond Cattell developed the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) by applying the statistical technique of factor analysis to the thousands of English words describing traits which had been identified by Allport. Hans Eysenck emphasized three basic traits (extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism), but current consensus favors the "big five" traits: extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Current research in this field tends to focus on specific personality traits, such as Zuckerman's sensation seeking trait.
PHENOMENOLOGICAL or HUMANISTIC APPROACHES - Humanistic psychologists emphasize the unique qualities of humans, especially their freedom and their potential for personal growth. Their theories are far more positive than the psychodynamic or behavioral theories that preceded them.
Carl Rogers- Self theory is based on the belief that people are innately good and are directed toward self-actualization. According to Rogers we each have a self-concept, a collection of beliefs about one's self. Incongruence results when our actual experiences do not agree with our self-concept, which can lead to psychological problems. Incongruence is likely to occur when others, especially our parents during our childhood, place conditions of worth on us, rather than on our behavior.
Abraham Maslow described humanistic psychology as the "third force" in American Psychology because it offered an alternative to psychodynamic theory and behaviorism. Maslow believed that humans have a hierarchical set of needs which must be fulfilled in the following order: physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization.
Objective tests are typically paper-and-pencil tests which require an individual to provide a self-report on various aspects of their personality. Self-report inventories require individuals to respond to questions about themselves in the form of yes-or-no or true-false answers. The most widely used self-report test is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI).
Projective tests are assessment techniques that require individuals to respond to unstructured or ambiguous stimuli that have no obvious meaning. The Rorschach Inkblot Test and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) are well-known examples of projective tests.
ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR - Psychopathology is the term applied to abnormal patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. Abnormality itself requires that one or more of the following criteria is(are) met: the behavior is deviant (statistically infrequent), the behavior is maladaptive (violates social norms; a.k.a. dysfunctional), or the behavior causes personal suffering. Although the major categories of mental illness are cross-cultural, the normality of any particular behavior is very dependent on culture.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. (DSM-IV) provides a classification system for psychological disorders and other psychosocial influences on behavior. Since this guide is currently in it's fifth version (yes, volume 4 is the 5th version), the definitions of psychological abnormality and mental illness obviously change over time, even among the recognized experts.
PSYCHOLOGY AND THE LAW
Insanity is a legal definition based primarily on whether a person can tell right from wrong at the time of committing a crime. Competency refers to whether a defendant is fit to stand trial. A defendant is incompetent if they cannot understand the purpose of the legal proceedings or assist in their own defense. Involuntary commitment refers to situations in which people are placed against their will in a psychiatric facility. This usually occurs when the individual is considered to be a threat to themselves or others.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by feelings of apprehension and anxiety so severe that they interfere with a person's life. They include phobias, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Mood disorders occur at both ends of a continuum ranging from severe depression to excessive euphoria. Depression is self-explanatory, and is often associated with suicide. Bipolar disorder involves swings between periods of depression and periods of extreme euphoria known as mania.
Schizophrenia is marked by a pronounced thought disorder, delusions, and hallucinations. It can include both positive symptoms (those listed above) and negative symptoms (such as flattened affect and social withdrawal). Schizophrenia does not involve multiple personalities!
Personality disorders are long-standing, inflexible patterns of maladaptive behavior that are not considered as severe as the mental disorders listed above, but which profoundly disturb an individual's interpersonal relationships from the adolescent years throughout adulthood and which are very resistant to treatment. Antisocial personality disorder (a.k.a. psychopaths or sociopaths) has received a great deal of attention, since these individuals are marked by a complete disregard for the rights of others. Psychopaths often find themselves in trouble with the law, and many infamous mass murderers/serial killers fit the criteria for being diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
THERAPY - Psychotherapy is a general term that describes psychological treatments designed to help people resolve behavioral, emotional, and interpersonal problems and improve the quality of their lives. Clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological disorders and behavioral problems. Psychiatrists are physicians who specialize in psychological disorders, and they often rely on medical treatments in addition to psychotherapy. In a team approach to treating psychological disorders, psychologists or counselors (or psychiatric nurses, clinical social workers, clergy, etc.) may provide the psychotherapy while a psychiatrist oversees medical treatments at the same time.
Based primarily on the work of Sigmund Freud, psychoanalysis emphasizes the uncovering of unconscious conflicts, motives, and defenses through techniques such as free association, dream interpretation, and transference.
Client-centered therapy emphasizes providing a supportive emotional climate for clients, who play a major role in determining the pace and direction of their therapy. Client-centered therapy tries to create an atmosphere of unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence. The goal is to reduce discrepancies between and individual's ideal self and his or her real self.
Gestalt therapy focuses on an individual's personal reality and whether they act on their true feelings. Gestalt therapists often rely on direct and dramatic methods.
BEHAVIOR THERAPY - Behavior therapies involve the application of learning principles to direct efforts to change abnormal behavior. Behavior therapists do not typically concern themselves with the hidden meanings or underlying processes which motivate behavior.
Traditional approaches emphasize behavior modification. Systematic desensitization involves finding a procedure that counters the anxiety that people experience when they confront feared objects. Aversion therapy uses unpleasant or painful stimuli such as electrical shock or nausea-inducing drugs to decrease unwanted behavior. Social skills training is designed to improve interpersonal skills that emphasizes modeling, behavioral rehearsal, and shaping. In biofeedback a bodily function (such as blood pressure) is monitored, and information about the function is fed back to the person to facilitate improved control of the physiological process.
Cognitive-behavior therapies seek to recognize and change negative and self-defeating thoughts that guide behavior in unhealthy directions. For example, Aaron Beck, whose cognitive therapy is particularly effective in the treatment of depression, proposed that therapists should help their clients to reduce negative cognitive patterns by focusing the individual's attention on those patterns in an organized, problem-solving manner.
BIOLOGICAL TREATMENTS - Biomedical therapies typically involve the use of drugs to reduce symptoms associated with psychological disorders.
Electroconvulsive therapy involves administering an electric shock in order to produce a cortical seizure. It is often successful in treating severe depression, but it can have serious side-effects, and how it works is not understood.
Psychoactive drugs include a variety of compounds used to treat various symptoms of the psychological disorders, but none of them provides a cure for these disorders. Anxiolytics (e.g., valium) relieve tension, apprehension, and nervousness (i.e., anxiety). Antipsychotics (e.g., thorazine) gradually reduce the psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia. Antidepressants (e.g., prozac) gradually elevate mood and bring people out of a depression. Lithium is a drug used to control the mood swings of bipolar disorder.
SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY - Social psychologists are concerned with the ways people influence and are influenced by others. Although much of their research is focused on individuals, studies of group behavior are also an important component of this field of psychology
ATTRIBUTION - Attribution is the process we go through when we try to explain the causes of behavior. We make internal attributions when we believe a behavior occurred because of personal characteristics, and we make external attributions when we believe the situation and/or environment caused a behavior.
The fundamental attribution error refers to our strong tendency to attribute the behavior of others to internal factors. The self-serving bias is the tendency to make internal attributions when our own behavior is successful, but to make external attributions when we fail.
Culture and Attribution - Collectivist cultures seem to be less likely to commit the fundamental attribution error, perhaps because they emphasize group goals and tend to define their identity in terms of the group they belong to. People from individualistic cultures tend to put personal goals ahead of group goals and to define their identity in terms of personal attributes, so they are readily inclined to make internal attributions about others.
ATTITUDES - Attitudes are tendencies to think, feel, or act in positive or negative ways toward objects or situations in our environment. They involve cognitive, affective (emotional), and behavioral components.
Persuasion refers to the process of trying to change someone's attitude. Factors which influence the effectiveness of persuasion can be related to both the source of the message and the receiver, as well as the message itself and the medium (e.g., T.V. commercial, newspaper ad) through which it is delivered.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual has inconsistent or incompatible thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes. This dissonance compels people to change their attitudes (which is often easier than changing their behavior).
PREJUDICE AND STEREOTYPES
Stereotypes are the perceptions, beliefs, and expectations we have about other people who belong to a particular group. Prejudice involves making judgments (usually negative) about other people based solely on their membership in that group. The experience of prejudice frequently results in behaviors that adversely affect members of the targeted group; such behaviors are known as discrimination.
Attraction is influenced by proximity, similarity, and physical attractiveness. The matching hypothesis was proposed to explain the observation that most people choose partners of approximately equal physical attractiveness.
There are at least two types of love: passionate and companionate. Passionate love is a complete absorption in another that includes strong sexual feelings. Companionate love is warm, trusting, tolerant affection for another whose life is deeply intertwined with one's own. Sternberg's triangular theory of love suggests that three components of love interact in a variety of ways, producing many different types of love. These components are passion, intimacy, and commitment.
CONFORMITY AND OBEDIENCE
Conformity occurs when people yield to real or imagined social pressure. In a classic study by Solomon Asch, it was shown that people often engage in a form of conformity called compliance. In other words, they yield to social pressure even though their private beliefs do not change.
Obedience refers to behavior initiated or changed in response to the direct command of a person with authority. In one of the most famous studies in the history of psychology, Stanley Milgram demonstrated that ordinary people are capable of frightening obedience when directed by an authority figure.
GROUP BEHAVIOR - A group consists of two or more individuals who interact and are interdependent.
Social facilitation refers to situations in which the presence of others can improve performance, but during difficult tasks the presence of others can cause social impairment. When an individual is actually working with others (not just working in their presence),the tendency to exert less effort than when working alone is described as social loafing.
The bystander effect occurs because people are less likely to provide help when they are in groups than when they are alone. This appears to be the result of a diffusion of responsibility.
Working in a group can also have interesting effects on
decision making. Group polarization
occurs when group discussion strengthens a group's dominant
point of view and produces a shift toward a more extreme
decision in that direction. Groupthink occurs when
members of a cohesive group emphasize agreement at the expense
of critical thinking.
return to top
Social Science and Humanities Department
Arts & Sciences Building, Room 201
Phone: (517) 483-1018
Additional contact information »