“Coming close is better than winning it at all”


An article on PsychCentral by Polly Campbell, citing research to suggest support for the near win effect


Bowlby’s work on attachment


Bowlby found the existence of the following stages with regards to infant-mother relationships:

  • Up to 3 months of age – Indiscriminate attachments.  The newborn is predisposed to attach to any human.  Most babies respond equally to any caregiver.
  • After 4 months – Preference for certain people.  Infants they learn to distinguish primary and secondary caregivers but accept care from anyone.
  • After 7 months – Special preference for a single attachment figure.  The baby looks to particular people for security, comfort and protection.  It shows fear of strangers (stranger fear) and unhappiness when separated from a special person (separation anxiety).  Some babies show stranger fear and separation anxiety much more frequently and intensely than others, but nevertheless they are seen as evidence that the baby has formed an attachment.  This has usually developed by one year of age.
  • After 9 months – Multiple attachments. The baby becomes increasingly independent and forms several attachments.

The results of the study indicated that attachments were most likely to form with those who responded accurately to the baby’s signals, not the person they spent most time with. Schaffer and Emerson called this sensitive responsiveness.

Many of the babies had several attachments by 10 months old, including attachments to mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings and neighbors.  The mother was the main attachment figure for about half of the children at 18 months old and the father for most of the others.  The most important fact in forming attachments is not who feeds and changes the child but who plays and communicates with him or her.

Source: simplypsychology

CBT or drugs for treatment of Schizophrenia?

Matt Kenyon 1411

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) involves identifying, challenging and modifying delusionary beliefs. The therapy is mainly talk-based and allows the person to actively alter the thought processes which cause their symptoms. In the cognitive aspect they are taught that their delusions are acceptable and normal for 1% of the population. The behavioural aspect involves the formation of hypotheses to challenge beliefs. Evidence is gathered outside of sessions to show the patient that their beliefs are unrealistic, allowing more realistic alternatives to subsequently be generated.

Drug therapy involves typical and/or atypical antipsychotic drugs. These regulate the abnormal levels of Dopamine (DA) at neurons during neural transmission which cause symptoms. Typical antipsychotics release  a substance which binds tightly to receptor sites, preventing excessive levels of DA from binding. Atypical produce a substance to bind more loosely and for a shorter period of time, causing less severe side effects.

Time– On the basis of time, CBT is superior to drugs, because CBT typically takes about 8-12 weekly sessions to complete a programme, whereas drugs take between 6 to 8 weeks just to begin affect. This makes the actual treatment of schizophrenia shorter to take place with CBT. However, drugs could be said to be better because they take virtually no time to take, whereas CBT is a number of hour-long sessions which may not be desirable for people with busy work or school schedules.

Effectiveness – Hollon found that the two therapies have roughly the same effectiveness, though CBT’s lasts for longer. A combination of the two has also been seen to have a higher effectiveness that any one alone. Individual studies have found high effectiveness for drugs (60%-Barlow and Durand) and for CBt (70%-Kingdon and Turkington).

Acceptability – CBT is a lot more acceptable for patients than drugs because they play an active role in tackling the underlying cause of their delusions, whereas the use of drugs makes patients passive and helpless without independence from drugs; Davis et al found that during his study of the effectiveness of drugs, patients begged not to take medication due to the undesirable side effects. Children and young teenagers may be better suited to CBT as drugs alter the neurochemistry and other processes due to their side effects.

Side effects – One huge strength of CBT over drugs is that they have no side effects. Drugs have many, and some quite severe effects, however: these range from excessive sweating and nausea to irreversible, Parkison’s-like tremors. This leads to further problems on top of schizophrenia. Though atypical antipsychotics have fewer and less severe side effects because binding is looser, the effects still exist but in CBT do not.

Conclusion? –  Each case is different and the treatment which is best for that individual, given their past history and lifestyle, would be most desirable. However, as a whole it can be seen that CBT is the clear winner, with no side effects and high effectiveness and acceptability. The time taken for therapy sessions is worth it for the control that the patient gains over their condition, empowering and useful for the long-term. Despite this, as CBT tackles the brain’s software and drugs the brain’s hardware, a combination would be the best thing to do for the greatest effectiveness.

Is psychology a science? Well, what exactly a science?


Science is defined as the “systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. Therefore, the scientific method employs a number of different measures. These include:

Paradigm – a set of theoretical rules and assumptions that are agreed upon by scientists (guiding principles/ general laws), to classify and standardise scientific knowledge.

Though it is argued that psychology’s many approaches (Biological, Social Learning, Cognitive, Behaviourist, Psychodynamic and Humanistic) all have unique aspects which cannot be disregarded, meaning that psychology does not have a paradigm, the emergence of a paradigm in modern psychology has been seen. The Cognitive approach’s computer analogy has seen a combination of cognition (software) and biological psychology (hardware). They are both complementary and so psychology has its paradigm.

Objectivity – a separation between the scientist and what they are studying, to allow the collection of data that is valid and reliable.

This is one of the trickiest to argue. Studies have shown that humans studying humans is ultimately subjective: Rosenthal found that participants’ performance of a task was altered by the physical characteristics of the observer. Similarly, psychology’s rushing into quantification means that many measures used today are self-report, the ultimate subjective tool. However, psychologists have an awareness of these influences so they can be reduced using inter-observer and inter-rater reliability. Coupled with a large sample size and other methodological strengths, subjectivity can be overpowered.

Empiricism – the exclusive collection of data that can be detected by the senses, so that it is objective and less open to interpretation.

Psychodynamic psychologists were the only people who ever collected data that wasn’t empirical. Today, empirical data is collected as standard. Though Coggies measure interal processes, this is done in a scientific way through structured interviews and observations used to create models that infer mental processes.

Falsifiability – theories are created which are capable of being proven wrong, and are challenged by hypothesis testing. Unfalsifiable theories like those of the Psychodynamic approach allow no progress to be made as nothing can be challenged so there is no opportunity for stronger, more refined theories to emerge.

Over time, the Social Learning Theory integrated into it more cognitive mediating factors. As their existence was proven using empirical inquiry, the SLT was scrapped and the Cognitive approach was born. Cognitive theory takes the environment into heavy consideration alongside its emphasis on internal mental structures. Therefore it seems that, on the basis of falsifiability, psychology is a science.

Quality control – the quality of findings is challenged by peer review and open discussion which may lead to replication. This means that work is looked at by other experts in the field who can check that findings really are valid. If not, they are challenged with replication, possibly using a different methodology, to see if the initial trend found remains.

Psychological research is published in major journals such as Science, Perception and British Journal of Psychology. All of these professional names are peer-reviewed so a leading expert in the field assesses the methodology and quality of the written report before deciding to publish it or reject it for publication. This means that nonsense like NLP, which makes large claims about its effectiveness but cannot provide any data, is not published as it is not eligible for peer review. The power of replication has also been seen within psychology: in 2008 a challenge to the so-called ‘Mozart effect’ was made, testing pop music and classical music on 8000 children. And surprise, surprise, the commonly-believed effect had been fabricated: though classical music does have a small, short-term enhancement in children, pop music is more effective.

Generalisation – the application of the findings of a study or a theory to the wider society or environment. This allows progress as general laws of commonalities can be made.

General laws are made all the time in psychology. The biological approach believes that everyone’s criminal behaviour is caused by the inheritance of traits which make us more likely to commit crime. Christiansen’s study of criminality in MZ and DZ twins was generalised not only to all twins, but the idea of genetic concordance was generalised to us all. Behaviourists even generalise the findings of animal studies to us. Freud generalised Hans’ oedipus complex to all 5 year old males. SLTs think that all children attend to models of perceived similarity and attractiveness. Generalisations are clearly made a lot.

Reductionism – the experimental method, whereby an IV is manipulated whilst a DV is measured and all other variables are standardised, requires the reduction of study to just an IV and DV. This allow cause-effect relationships to be established so that trends can be found. Theoretical reductionism can too be used by cutting through the complexity of the chosen subject to a few fundamental principles, allowing a simple and easily understood account to be gained.

Just like generalisations, pretty much everyone reduces us into our component parts because it is needed to conduct experiments, which pretty much everyone also does. Biological reductionism cuts through our complexity to study just evolution, genes and our Nervous System (put very simply). Machine reductionism is what Cogs use to portray our information processing systems that are the mind and brain. And environmental reductionism is the reduction of the causes of behaviour to exclusively external factors like our peers and the media. Whether or not such reductionism encompasses the complexity of us humans (that’s another debate entirely), it is consistent with science.

So then, is psychology a science? It seems so, yes. It may not be all lab coats and test tubes but the study of humans is rather more complex than all that, because cells and atoms don’t have conscious thought which detects demand characteristics! So, by breaking science apart into its fundamental method, we can see that psychology is a science. And a good job, too! If it wasn’t we’d all still be stuck in the post-Freudian era analysing inkblots…

Are smart people more selective?

What is behavioral? A blog of recent updates to behavioral economics


People with High IQ May Be Better at Blocking Distractions

Researchers have discovered that people with high IQ’s have brains that are more efficient allowing them to have better visual perception. That is, people with high IQ scores aren’t just more intelligent, they also process sensory information differently. The study findings, published in the Cell Press journal Current Biology, explains that the brains of people with high IQ are automatically more selective when it comes to perceiving objects in motion. As such, they are specifically more likely to suppress larger and less relevant background motion. “It is not that people with high IQ are simply better at visual perception,” said Duje Tadin, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester. “Instead, their visual perception is more discriminating. They excel at seeing small, moving objects but struggle in perceiving large, background-like motions.” ….[READ]

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