Tag Archives: research

Profile of a Psychologist: Carl Jung

JungBorn in a small village in Switzerland in 1875, Carl Gustav Jung grew up in a rather eccentric family. He became an excellent linguist at an early age and in 1903 married Emma Rausenbach, an intelligent young woman from a wealthy Swiss-German family. Emma later became a prominent psychoanalyst herself known as Emma Jung. Although originally educated as a psychiatrist, Jung’s meeting with Sigmund Freud in 1907, pushed him towards psychoanalysis setting him on the path towards becoming Freud’s protege. However, the pair became estranged as their theories diverged causing a permanent rift. Following World War I, Jung travelled across the globe studying native people, taking part in “anthropological and archaeological expeditions.” In 1935, Jung became professor at the University of Zurich before deciding to concentrate strictly on research.

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Freud first introduced the idea that humans are guided by forces within ourselves, specifically our unconscious. He claimed that our experience of the world is directly affected by “primal drives contained in the unconscious.” Jung expanded on this basic philosophy inquiring into the basic elements that “make up the unconscious and its workings.” He was most intrigued by striking similarities between societies around the world despite completely differing cultures. In particular, the similarities found in myths and symbols ranging across cultures. Jung believed this could be explained by “something larger than the individual experience of man.”

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To Jung it appeared that the existing commonality between these myths and symbols proved the existence of a “collective memory” passed down by generations as part of our heredity. He believed that this collective memory was housed in a part of the psyche and contained ideas “held in a timeless structure.” Finally, he proposed a notion that a distinct part of the unconscious is completely void of individual experiences, coining the term “collective unconscious.” Together with the ego, our conscious mind; the personal unconscious, our individual suppressed memories, the collective unconscious forms the three components of the psyche. We then inherit these collective memories found in the collective unconscious, allowing them to emerge within our own psyche creating symbols known as archetypes. Differing cultures, allow for layers and variations of these archetypes to exist simultaneously and just like with the evolution of all species on this planet, the layers of these archetypes reveal traces of the entire human experience.

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Finally, our inherited archetypes, etched deep within our unconscious, serve as templates used by our psyche to “organise and understand our own experience.” Basically, archetypes serve as a guidebook programmed within our minds to help us make sense of the world as well as to survive it. Archetypes serve as the foundational structure on which our experience builds. They can be seen as emotions or behavioural patterns; regardless, they help us determine “a particular set of…expressions as a unified pattern that has meaning” seemingly instinctually.

Furthermore, Jung also is renowned in the world of psychology for his exploration of word association and his concepts of introversion and extroversion. His concepts inspired many well-known personality tests used today such as Myer-Briggs Type Indicator.

If you are interested in Jung you should consider checking out the movie A Dangerous Method. Also click here to see photos of my recent trip to the Jung Institute in Zurich.

 

Citation:

Collin, Catherine. The Psychology Book. New York: DK Pub., 2012. Print.

 

Anorexia and Autism?

A new study lead by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University suggests that girls with anorexia have a higher than average “number of autistic traits” (University of Cambridge, 2013). These traits include an “above average interest in systems” and a below average empathy score (ibid). Considering the rigid personality, attitudes and behaviours of anorexics and their obsessive thought patterns in relation to body weight, body image and eating patterns it is not difficult to see how they can be interpreted as typical of autism.

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n the study, first published the Journal of Molecular Autism, Baron-Cohen et al. assessed 66 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 with anorexia but no history of autism for autistic traits. A control group of over 1,600 neurotypical teens in the same age group were also given the same assessments including the the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Systemising Quotient (SQ) and the Empathy Quotient (EQ). Results showed that compared with the control group, the anorexic girls were five times more likely to score in the autistic spectrum. More than 50% of the anorexic girls fell into the “broader autism phenotype” compared with only 15% of the control (ibid). Furthermore, the anorexic girls also scored a higher SQ and lower EQ which also points towards an autistic personality.

As interesting as these results are there is indeed a practical application. Cases of autism are far more prevalent in males; however, Baron-Cohen’s findings show that perhaps autism in young girls is being overshadowed by a diagnosis of anorexia. Dr Tony Jaffa, co-leader of the study confirms that the new correlation between autistic traits and anorexia will give health professionals and researchers a new means to help those suffering from the eating disorder. He remarks:

“For example, shifting their interest away from body weight and dieting on to a different but equally systematic topic may be helpful. Recognising that some patients with anorexia may also need help with social skills and communication, and with adapting to change, also gives us a new treatment angle”

Why Psychology is Still Relevant

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A lot of people seem to believe that psychology is a course, major, what have you that people study at university because they do not know what else to study or major in (my flat mate included). Also, as it is science that is not heavy in the triad (chemistry, physics and biology), as I have just now decided to call them, it has garnered the reputation of being an easy course to get on. The fact that one of my assigned textbooks is called Statistics without Math for Psychology kind of gives you a good indication of the level of higher thinking associated with psychology degrees. Then there is the fact that in almost every television programme where a psychologist or psychiatrist is part of a single episode, they are either a) the murder b) crazy or c) all of the above. All in all, despite Freud being discredited to the core, most people still hold the commense view that psychology just proves what everyone already knew or is about finding a relationship between the jeans you put on this morning and some repressed adolescent, sexual fantasy.

Now I am not going to say that there are not people in my psychology course at university that choose psychology just because it seem convenient and easy. As I said from the start, my flat mates admits to those exact motives, and despite the fact that I go to a leading university of psychological research and study, he is not the only one. But the thing that actually matters is that there are people there, who like me, believe psychology is relevant.

Psychology was built upon the foundations of medicine, philosophy and neuroscience and struggles with the complex concept that is the mind. Even erudite minds such as Aristotle and Descartes where baffled. Aristotle believed the seat of intelligence was the heart and Descartes thought the mind was housed in the pineal gland. Which just goes to prove that trying to understand the complexity of what makes us who we are and act the way we do is not exactly simple. Yes, you can pass my course without really making any effort or without having any true zest. You will in no way have a chance at being accepted for masters course or graduating anywhere close to a first, but you can easily pass. And no, that statement cannot be applied to fields such as medicine or astrophysics when a keen interest in key, but that does not make psychology any less important. If you chose to take psychology seriously it requires time, education, patience and intelligence just like any other field of study.

But you ask, how does this make psychology relevant or rather, why should you believe me? I am after all one of the most biased people towards psychology; however, if you have taken any time at all to read my past blog posts you will see that psychology is as relevant now as ever and that relevance is growing exponentially. Psychology is the key to becoming more efficient, more empathetic and more self-aware than ever. Journals, such as my personal favourites Scientific American Mind and Psychology Today, prove that every day research in the field of psychology has immeasurable applications.

Animal Models in Neuroscience

Invertebrate Models 

The squid giant axon is pretty well renowned for his its applications neuroscience research. J Z Young discovered the giant squid axon and giant squid synapse and was the first to apply it neurophysiological research. The giant squid (loligo pealii) was and is still considered to extrodinarly vital to neuroscience research because of the sheer size of its axon (<1mm). It’s size makes it easy to dissect and support. External and internal perfusion with varying saline levels allowed scientists to determine ion flows in action potential.  Using the giant squid axon, Alan Lloyd Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1963 for developing Hodgkin–Huxley model mathematical model that describes how action potentials in neurons are initiated and propagated.

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In electrophysiology, worms are used as a model for cellular death (apoptosis) and development and are also studied because of their relatively large axon. The C.elegans a nematoda (roundworm) is often studied because its genome, nervous system and genetic regulation of behaviour has been fully mapped. Specifically, these roundworms are an ideal model for apoptosis.

Fruit flies or drosophilia melangosaster have probably come up a fair few times if you have ever taken biology. Fruit flies are used in neuroscience for the identification of genes regulation nervous system development. In particular, the role of pax-6 in the development and evolution of the eye.

Vertebrate Models 

Frogs 

Italian physician Luigi Galvani in his frog studies showed that muscles can be caused to twitch when electrically stimulated.

German physician and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz isolated the nerve conduction velocity to be between a range of 24.6 – 38.4 meters per second.

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Ross G. Harrison was the first person to make observations of axonal growth whilst studying tadpoles in vitro.

Katz and Miledi whilst studying frogs observed the role of calcium ions in the release of neurotransmitters.

The neuropsychologist Roger W. Sperry, known for his split-brain research that lead his Nobel Prize in 1981, observed rats and frogs discovering how nerves pathfind.

Birds

The domestic chicken (gallus domesticus) have been used again and again the study of brain development because of how easy they are to study. Chickens are so easy to study because of how ‘simple’ it is for scientists to manipulate the embryo. Being able to manipulate the embryo means the scientists have been able to transplant genes, tissue and nerve growth factors to study the effects.

Konrad Lorenz an Austrian zoologist,ethologist, and ornithologist studied imprinting in chicks, which is when an animal comes to believe the first person, thing or animal they see is there mother.

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English biologist Steven Rose also used chicks to study passive avoidance learning, which is when a person or animals learns to stop doing a certain behaviour when it results in punishment.

Nichole Le Douarin transplanted regions of nervous system between quails and the domestic chicken to create a chimera, which has led to critical insights into the development of the nervous system and the immune system. Other notable researchers that have worked with the domestic chicken are Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini.

Mammals and Non-Human Primates

Hitzig and Fritsch both German physicians used dogs to map out the motor cortex of dogs.

Using cats, dogs and apes English neurophysiologist, histologist, bacteriologist, and a pathologist Sir Charles S. Sherrington made huge progress to our current knowledge of reflexes, motor control and localisation in addition to coining the term synapse.

German pharmacologist Otto Loewi who discovered of acetylcholine, used dogs to study chemical neural transmissions. This discovery came from the stimulation of the vagus nerve releasing vagustoff, which caused a reduction  in the heart rate. This vagustoff was later confirmed to be acetylcholine. English neuroscientist Henry Hallett Dale later expanded on this discovery to study the release of ACh from the motor nerves in cats, dogs and frogs. He came up with Dale’s principle that individual nerves release a single neurotransmitter, which of course, was later proved false.

British physiologist John Langley named the autonomic nervous system and studied cats, dogs and rabbits to formulate the receptor theory.

American psychologist Karl Lashley searched for the engram (physical embodiment of memory) using ablations in rats to see how it would affect their memory performance in maze tasks.

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To famous psychological experiments involving mammals are those of American psychologist B.F. Skinner and Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov conducted studies on dogs and coined the term what is now known as classical or passive conditioning via the pairing of stimuli. B.F. Skinner using a ‘Skinner Box’ and rats coined the term active or operant conditioning via reinforcement.

Kuffler (Hungarian-American neurophysiologist), Hubel (Canadian neurophysiologist) and Weisel (Swedish neurophysiologist) worked together on cats and monkey brains to map out receptive fields related visual processing.

Mice transgenics have also widely been used to study molecular dissection of behaviour and diseases in particular in relation to reward systems and development abnormalities.

Non-human primates are of particular interest to neuroscientists because they are of few animals with brains similar to ours, in particular they have a frontal lobe.

Normal or Gaussian Distribution

Characteristics of Normal Distribution 

– Symmetrical about the mean

– Tails should meet the axis at infinity

– Bell-shaped distribution

– Mean = mode = median

– The area under the curve is 1 standard deviation away from the mean and makes up 68% of the entire distribution under the curve (This means that if you randomly select a point under the curve, there is a 68% chance it will fall one standard deviation from the mean)

– The area under the curve 1.96 SD (round to two) away from the mean makes up 95% of the entire distribution under the curve (This means that if you randomly select a point under the curve, there is a 95% chance it will fall 2 standard deviations from the mean)

– The sample mean = mean of the population

– The standard deviation of the mean distribution or standard error = (SD of the population)/(square root of the number of scores)

– The standard error indicates the degree to which sample means deviate from the mean

– The sample mean distribution converges to normal distribution as the size of the sample increases

– The bell-shaped curve can also be reflected in the lay-out of a histrogram

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Here the SD is 15 units

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Questions Dealing with Standard Deviation

Question: Assume the standard deviation is 10 and the mean score is 100. If you randomly select any point 1 standard deviation from the mean, what would be your range?

Answer: The range would be between 90 and 110. As one standard deviation is 10 units left or right. You could also say that you have a 68% chance of randomly picking a score between 90 and 110 on the this graph.

Question: Assume the standard deviation is 10 and the mean score is 100. If you randomly select any point 2 standard deviations from the mean, what would your range be?

Answer: The range would be between 80 and 120. As one standard deviation is 10 units left or right, 2 standard deviations would be 20 units left or right. You could also say that you have a 95% of randomly picking a score between 80 and 120 on this graph.

N.B: 95% is the commonly accepted probability, which is the alpha level or confidence level in psychological studies for rejecting the null hypothesis is p<0.05.

The z-Score 

It is possible to convert all normal distributions to the standard normal distribution.

For a standard normal distribution the mean has to equal 0 and the SD has to equal 1.

You can find the z-score by subtracting the mean from each data point, and then dividing the this zero-meaned data by the standard deviation.

If your final data point is +1, this point is one standard deviation above the mean. If your final data point is -3, this point is 3 standard deviations below the mean. The z-score is particularly useful for comparing data across different situations.

Error Bar Charts

Error bar charts are away of representing the confidence interval. Error bars display your mean means as a point on a chart and a vertical line through the mean point that represents the confidence interval. The longer the line, the longer the confidence interval. Error bar charts can also be used to see if two population means differ from each other by comparing confidence interval. If the confidence intervals do not overlap we can be 95% confident that both population means fall within the intervals indicated and therefore do not overlap.

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Bibliography

ZHENG, Y. (2013). Referencing and citation – Harvard style, from PSY104 Methods and Reasoning for Psychologists. University of Sheffield, Richard Roberts Building on 11th February. Available from: Blackboard.
[Accessed 4/02/13].

Designing a Research Experiment

Steps for Experimental Design 

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1. Figure out what you want to explore and formulate a research question based on a previous theory.

2. Formulate a hypothesis

3. Define your variables

4. Decide which type of experiment is appropriate

5. Carry out statistical analysis and discussion

The Hypothesis 

When you are designing an experiment in psychology you will have an experimental hypothesis and a null hypothesis. Both of these will predict how the variables relate to another.

The null hypothesis predicts that there will be no relationship between the variables.

The experimental hypothesis predicts that where will be a relationship between the variables; however, there are two kinds of experimental hypotheses. A non-directional hypothesis will only say that there will be a relationship between the variables. For example, caffeine will have an effect on motor skills.  A directional hypothesis will state what kind of relationship will exist between the variables. For example, caffeine will have a positive effect on motor skills OR caffeine will have a negative effect on motor skills. If we can accept the experimental hypothesis, we can reject the null hypothesis and vice versa.

Variables

In an experiment you must have an independent variable and a dependent variable. The independent variable is the manipulated variable or in the case of categorical variable, one with limited levels. For example nationality (Levels: English and Chinese).  The dependent variable is what the independent variable will have a causal effect on.

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There are also confounding variables. However, unlike the independent and dependent variable, we want to avoid confounding variables in our experiments as much as possible. Confounding variables are variables that could influence the dependent variable. They have a systematic effect on the conditions. To reduce the effect of confounding variables you need to ensure the the independent variable is the only difference between experimental conditions. This includes random assignment, random sampling, controlling for age, gender and skills, etc.

Deciding on the Right Experiment 

In psychological experiments your two options are within participants design (or related samples) and between participants design (or unrelated samples).

Within participants designs compare the performance of the person or participant across all the conditions. This is done through repeated measures or a related design. This type of design is usually preferable. The advantages are that you need fewer participants, you have much better control of confounding variables because you are comparing the person against themselves. Of course, there are also disadvantages of a within participant design. The first one is called the carry-over effect, which means that once you have learnt a skill it’s hard to unlearn it or forget it. This means that if a person makes progress in a different condition it could just be down to practice. The second disadvantage is the order effect, which is when practice, fatigue or just plain boredom affects the performance of the participant. Luckily, most order effects can be avoided by counter balancing. This is when you randomly assign participants to the conditions, so that one person’s first task might be the second person’s fourth task. Controlling for confounding variables helps increase the experiments internal validity (the extend to which we can relate changes in the IV to the DV). External validity relates to how well the findings can be generalised to the population at large. External validity relies on random assignment, random sampling and ensuring that factors such as setting do not differ from experimental settings to the real world.

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Between participants designs compare the performance of participants each in different conditions. One participant is only exposed to one of the conditions. Between participant design is the best alternative for within participant design. It should be used when you are trying to make comparisons in performance across different groups like gender, age groups, culture, etc. The main advantage is not having to deal with order effects or the carry-over effect; however, you do need more participants that are far more similar to each other to avoid confounding variables. This must be done before the experiment and is known as matching participants.

Sometimes there is also a third type of experiment called a one-sample design. This is when a sample mean is compared against a known population.

Bibliography

ZHENG, Y. (2013). Referencing and citation – Harvard style, from PSY104 Methods and Reasoning for Psychologists. University of Sheffield, Richard Roberts Building on 18th February. Available from: Blackboard.
[Accessed 4/02/13].