Psychology and Human Behavior
- Correlation research is the best approach, which can be used to study the relationship between alcohol and violence. Correlation is defined as the “co-relationship or pattern of co variation between two variables, each of which has been measured several times” (Schacter, Gilbert & Wegner, 2009). Knowing the value of one variable allows a person to predict about the value of the other variable. Correlations can be positive in a “more-more” or “less-less” manner or they can be negative in a “more-less” or “less-more” manner. For instance, considering other factors such as aggressiveness, some men are more violent towards their spouses when they are drunk. This is a positive correlation since more alcohol means more violence. The problem of the third variable is usually present in most studies. It is not easy to conclude a particular study based on only two variables. Experiments establish the causal relationships between variables through manipulation and randomization.
It is usually difficult to show the relationship between two variables. A significant number of people would not admit to being violent when they have taken alcohol. One of the ways to conduct this study would be asking their spouses and partners. This will require anonymity, and this is a major ethical consideration. Another ethical consideration would be lack of assumptions. It is easy to assume that alcohol causes violence. However, it is worthwhile to note that correlation does not mean causation and one should allow for many possibilities. Factors such as gender, ability to maintain one’s anger, emotional and socioeconomic factors can affect the outcome of the study. Since this is a study, any findings, however bad they are, must remain confidential. This study can be extremely difficult especially when dealing with domestic violence cases. The researcher has to conduct it objectively and confidentially.
- Both positive and negative reinforcement are meant to strengthen or increase response by adding or removing a stimulus. Reinforcement increases the chance of repeating certain behaviors and responses. Positive reinforcement strengthens behavior by presenting a desirable consequence. Positive reinforcement can be in form of tangible substances such as money, food and presents, or they can be intangible such as praise and recognition (Nevid, 2008). I have worked part time since I was in high school. When I initially started working, I found work responsibilities too much to bear that I was contemplating quitting. Luckily, I had a supervisor who cared much for the employees, especially those who had just started working. She constantly encouraged me whenever she noticed that I was overwhelmed by the workload. She continuously praised me for the effort that I put in my work and this encouraged and motivated me. Soon, I was able to handle the same work as some of the older employees and at the end of two months, I was voted as the employee of the month, a record that has stayed up to this day. The praises and recognition that the supervisor gave me were the desirable consequences that I needed for reinforcement.
Negative reinforcement strengthens or increases behavior by withdrawing undesirable, unpleasant or painful stimulus. Negative reinforcers are aversive to stimuli such as loud noise, cold, and pain (Nevid, 2008). At home, I am always in constant tension and arguments with my parents because of the state in my room. Every time I walk through the door, the first thing that they remind me is that I should be neater and be an example to my younger siblings. Because of this tension, I am constantly away from the house, only going there when it is necessary. This means that I do not spend as much time with my family as I would like to. However, one day, I decided to spend the weekend cleaning and arranging my room and generally making the whole place look neater. I not only cleaned my room, but I made sure that the rest of the house was clean as well. The next day, I did not have to argue with my parents and for the first time in many years, I spent a peaceful weekend at home. The tension, which was the undesirable consequence, was removed when I cleaned the room.
- Psychoanalytical theory was developed by Sigmund Freud. The theory “emphasizes the importance of unconscious mental processes in shaping feelings, thoughts and behavior.” A person’s earlier experiences are important since they can help a psychologist to understand the person’s anxieties, conflicts and desires. The errors, illusions and foibles of mental functioning offer a glimpse into the normal operations of the mind (Schacter et al, 2009). Understanding people’s past is one way of understanding their present situation. Many people hide or protect their past not knowing that it might be the cause of their current mental situation. Psychoanalytical theory is important in this aspect because it helps to uncover who a person really is. People who had certain fears in their childhood are likely to project those fears when they grow older. Some may have forgotten about them, and unless they are reminded, these fears can become a source of mental anguish to the person.
Behaviorism advocated that psychologists should restrict themselves to the scientific study of objectively observable behavior. The theory was influenced by great minds such as Pavlov. Pavlov came up with classic conditioning, which occurs “when a neutral stimulus evokes a response after being paired with a stimulus that naturally evokes a response” (Schacter et al., 2009). Watson noted the importance of the environment on behavior and he used this research in the advertising field. To this day, advertisers continue to manipulate the environment to influence the consumer’s behavior. Skinner was the major force behind reinforcement where he noted the people and animals repeat behaviors that generate positive results and avoid behaviors that produce unpleasant consequences.
Behaviorism and psychoanalytical theories use different approaches yet their importance to psychology cannot be overlooked. While one advocates the importance of the unconscious mind in understanding behavior and psychological disorders, the other dismisses the mental faculty and calls for the psychologist to use the observable behavior, which can be measured. These theories interest me because it helps me realize that no one can really explain the human mind or exhaustively understand behavior. There will always be new discoveries being made and people will often disagree concerning different theories. Learning about these theories has also opened me up to new possibilities about research and study. The theories were developed many years ago and there have been little to show for it in recent years. Many researchers today choose to expound on cognitive theories instead of developing newer theories. They do not reflect the changing times, as was the case when researchers moved from structuralism to functionalism, behaviorism and cognition theories. This shows that there is need for continued research in the field of psychology. By learning psychology I am able to understand people in a better way and I seek to understand why they behave the way they do other than out rightly judging them.
- Anxiety disorders limit the ability of people to function normally because they lack peace of mind. A person who has generalized anxiety disorder has chronic excessive worry and may exhibit three or more of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, concentration problems, irritability, muscle tension and sleep disturbance. The person does not have enough self-confidence and he or she feels out of control. Extreme anxiety can cause panic attacks and nightmares. When treating anxiety problems, several factors have to be considered. The first thing is to identify the cause of the disorder. This condition is more likely to affect people who have low income, live in large cities or those who are trapped in unpredictable environments. Women are more likely to suffer from this condition because they are more likely to suffer discrimination, face sexual and physical abuse and are more likely to live in poverty. Other factors that can cause this problem are childhood traumatic experiences and major life changes such as a new baby or personal loss.
Several approaches can be used to treat severe anxiety disorders. Psychotherapy is usually the first method used by doctors. Doctors or other health care providers should reassure the patients and explain to them about the symptoms they are experiencing (Stevens & Rodin, 2001). Since the main symptom of this condition is worry, the first objective during treatment is to get rid of the worry. This involves controlling the patient’s thoughts because they affect feelings and behavior. Patients should also learn different relaxation techniques such as yoga, massages and music. Relaxation reduces tension brought about by worrying. Some doctors use cognitive restructuring, which involves “teaching clients to question automatic beliefs, assumptions and predictions that often lead to negative emotions and to replace negative thinking with more realistic and positive beliefs” (Schacter et al., 2009). They also use meditative techniques such as mindfulness meditation. This enables the patient to be aware of the symptoms before they become a serious problem
Some patients have responded to prescription drugs especially sedatives. They stimulate the neurotransmitters and reduce some of the symptoms experienced. Benzodiazepine can be used to facilitate the action of neurotransmitters gamma-amino butyric acid. This works by inhibiting certain neurons in the brain and producing a calming effect on the patient. Drugs in this category include diazepam, lorazepam and alprazolam. Doctors are increasingly reducing these prescriptions because of noted withdrawal symptoms once the patient stops using the drugs. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include increased hear rates, shaking, insomnia, agitation and more anxiety. Benzodiazepines also have side effects. Of note is drowsiness, and problems in coordination and memory.
In severe cases, doctors combine drugs and psychotherapy. They administer drugs for a relatively short time while continuing with psychotherapy. Another treatment approach includes using alternative medication such as herbal medicines, megavitamins, homeopathic remedies and naturopathic remedies. Studies in this area are not conclusive and The US Food and Drug Administration do not recognize them as medications.
Nevid, S. J. (2008). Psychology: Concepts and applications. New York, NY: Cengage Learning
Schacter, D.L., Gilbert, D.T. & Wegner, D.M. (2009). Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers
Stevens, L., & Rodin, I. (2001). Psychiatry: An illustrated colour text. United Kingdom: Elsevier Health Sciences