Revealing both the best and worst aspects of humanity, the Renaissance was characterized by extraordinary human achievements, a heightened interest in human potential and, paradoxically, by superstition, witch-hunting, exorcism and torture. The humanism of Renaissance had four main themes: the belief in the individual’s potential, a tendency to view religion as being more personal rather than institutionalized, an increased interest in the classics, a rejection of Aristotelian philosophy in order to develop a more scientific attitude.
As the ecclesiastical power started to deteriorate, the pressure of having to fit scientific inquiry with Christian dogma decreased, making inquiry steadily more objective. Copernicus found that the earth was not located in the center of the solar system (like the Ptolemaic system claimed) and Kepler demonstrated that the planets’ paths were elliptical, and not circular. Among other findings, Galileo concluded that the universe operated under a certain set of laws. He also suggested that psychological science was an unfeasible task due to the subjective essence of human thought. Newton explained the universe using a small number of basic laws and was able to influence science, philosophy and, of course, psychology. Bacon insisted on the fact that scientific investigation should be focused on solving human problems and identified several biases as sources of error in science.
Descartes wanted a method of investigation that would produce knowledge that could not be affected by doubt. He thought that introspection was an accurate method of pursuing the truth and concluded that the sensory apparatus would not deceive us because it had been created by God. All animal behavior was mechanical and both the mind and the body could influence each other (interactionism). Interestingly, he also believed that the mind possessed innate ideas and was the first person to describe the notion of “reflex”. Most importantly, Renaissance thinkers were adamant about not allowing previous methods of inquiry and beliefs to interfere with their current investigations which were mostly focused on errors in the previously dominant paradigm.
Initially, Pavlov had a low opinion of the preponderate use of introspection in psychology and resisted the investigation of conditioned reflexes because of their seemingly subjective nature but, after getting thoroughly acquainted with Sechenov’s work (the founder of Russian objective psychology), he came to the conclusion that conditioned reflexes could be accurately explained by physiological processes (Hergenhahn, 2013).
The conditioned reflex was discovered by Pavlov during his research on digestion. His method involved a surgical procedure that allowed a dog’s gastric secretion (in response to meat powder, for instance) to flow out of its body to be collected, after the dog’s body was able to fully recover from surgery. Pavlov realized that events or objects that were associated with meat powder were also able to cause secretion of stomach juices and referred to these as “conditional responses”, due to the fact that these responses depended on something else. An unconditioned stimulus (meat powder) triggers an unconditional reflex (increased salivation). A stimulus that did not automatically evoke a certain response in dogs (a biologically neutral stimulus) was called a “conditioned stimulus” by Pavlov. A previously neutral response (the conditioned stimulus) that induced an unconditioned response resulted in a conditioned response. In addition to that, similarly to Sechenov, Pavlov considered that all activity in the CNS can be described by a pattern of inhibition and excitation – the cortical mosaic. More specifically, if a CS (conditioned stimulus) is continuously presented to an organism and is not followed be an unconditioned stimulus, the conditioned response will gradually decrease until its extinction (Hergenhahn, 2013). During his experiments on extinction, Pavlov realized that a CS (a bell/tone in this instance – in his experiments Pavlov trained dogs to salivate when he sounded a bell) that is repeatedly presented without the unconditioned stimulus (food powder) resulted in the extinction of the CR (conditioned response, salivation in this case) (Rathus, 2010). Moreover, Pavlov found that, for animals, responding to a variety of stimuli is adaptive. He showed the tendency for a CR to be evoked by stimuli that were equivalent to the stimulus to which the response was conditioned (“generalization”) by getting the dog to salivate when a circle was displayed and then observing that the animal salivated in response to be being shown other, similar geometric shapes. Alternatively, Pavlov demonstrated that a dog that was conditioned to salivate because of a stimulus like a circle could be trained not to respond in the same manner to ellipses—in other words, it displayed discrimination. However, increasing the complexity of the discrimination experiment (by showing it gradually rounder ellipses) resulted in the dog being unable to discriminate between the two geometrical figures (Rathus, 2010). What is more, the dog became markedly agitated / stressed and Pavlov’s experiment was capable of producing experimental neurosis (p 458, Malone, 2009).
Discuss the trends that psychology has in the new millennium
At the inception of the new millennium, there was a change in the field of psychology from behavioral perspective to cognitive ones, from a strong reliance on an empirical derivation of knowledge to a pursuit of knowledge as primarily derived from rationality. Goodwin identified several trends that have carried over into the 21st century: computers, evolution, fragmentation (a multitude of sub-fields in psychology) and neuroscience (Brown, 2008).
The 60’s epistemological shift that Abi-Rached (2010) called the “neuromolecular gaze” marked the birth of neurosciences. Over time, neuroscience managed to capture the attention of scientists and the public alike, so much that various disciplines have managed to embrace the “neuro” prefix – from neuroeconomic to neurotheology. Current biopolitics is saturated with futurity, anticipation, great expectations and dread (Rose, 2013), with vital implications regarding personal responsibility and free-will.
Contemporary computational approaches to experimental psychology use computer simulation, mathematical modeling, and sophisticated data analysis to gain insights into neuropsychological principles. Many cognitive neuroscientists view physical systems as computers that can be described in algorithmic terms and thus describe information-processing in computational terms.
Because of the exciting advances in genomic sequencing we can observe an expanding interaction between the study of human genomics and the humanities, providing a plethora of information on the human ancestry narrative in the DNA.
Finally, although the new DSM (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) remains a categorical diagnosis of disorders, it recognizes the fact that not all mental disorders fit within the limits of clearly delimited disorders by adding a dimensional option to the previous categorical classification of disorders. This shift may indeed have revolutionary consequences on clinical decision-making and psychiatric research and create progress (Kraemer, 2007).
Compare and contrast two different schools of psychology. An example would be Gestalt and Behaviorism.
The Gestaltists managed to challenge both the behaviorists and structuralists by emphasizing behavioral and cognitive configuration (“Gestalt” is the German word for “configuration” of “whole”) that could not be divided without damaging their meaning. The Gestalt school of psychology was founded with the publication of Wertheimer’s articles on what he called the “phi phenomenon”—a conscious experience that was not the matter of any type of discrete sensory information. Wertheimer considered that force fields in the brain are distributed symmetrically like they are in any physical system and that they regulate consciousness by interacting with sensory data. According to the Gestaltist school of psychology, perceptual principles that organize elements of perceptions into configurations include proximity (stimuli that are close create a perceptual unit), continuity (stimuli following a certain pattern are viewed as a perceptual unit), inclusiveness (a smaller perceptual configuration is masked by a larger one) and closure (incomplete material objects are experiences as complete) (Hergenhahn, 2013).
Gestaltists found that problem-solving could be achieved by insight, and not mechanical repetition, and believed that learning could be purposeful and not simply responsive like it was in the experiments performed by Skinner and Watson.
Unsurprisingly, the behaviorists attacked the Gestaltists’ focus on consciousness and labeled it a regression.
Even though Gestalt psychology is no longer a school of thought, its ideas have successfully reshaped America’s mainstream psychology which embraced many of its perspectives. The Gestalt principles are still studied in the field of perception and sensation and Gestalt therapy is still being used today to assist people in integrating conflicting personality aspects. Although in the beginning both Behaviorism and Gestaltism opposed Wundt’s concern with sensory elements (Wundt’s elementism), they ended up colliding over consciousness—the (radical) behaviorists refused the notion completely, while the Gestaltists embraced it and challenged any attempt to reduce it to elements. More exactly, they were against both the elementism practiced by Wundt and the one practiced by the behaviorists in their investigations of S-R associations. They argued against a molecular approach to psychology (like the one used by Wundt, Pavlov, Watson) and instead embraced a molar approach to the study of consciousness, focusing on the phenomenology and purposive behavior. Theirs was a holist approach, in contrast to the atomistic one (Hergenhahn, 2013).Describe the traditional version of the Anna O. case, what really happened, and what Freud learned from the case (or thought he learned).
What practically gave birth to psychoanalysis was what Freud found out from his friend Joseph Breuer regarding a woman’s treatment. He learned that when Anna O., Breuer’s patient was hypnotized or completely relaxed and asked to recall the context in which one of her symptoms had initially occurred, the symptom in question would disappear temporarily. Breuer called it “the cathartic method” because the emotional release was followed by relief which followed the expression of a symptom-related idea. In addition, he learned that Anna would sometimes respond to her therapist in a manner that suggested he was a relevant individual in her life (the “transference” process). Similarly, Freud was informed that the therapist could become involved with the patient in an emotional way in a process of “countertransference”—for instance, the emotions that Anna used to express towards her parent she now expressed to her therapist. Later, Freud and Breuer wrote “Studies on Hysteria” (1895) which constitutes the formal inception of the psychoanalysis school. Freud later learned that hysteria was a real disorder that could be observed in both men and women and that ideas dissociated ideas (mainly due to trauma) were capable of producing physical symptoms in individuals who were predisposed to hysteria and that hysteria may have a sexual cause. He concluded, without any doubt, that hysteria origin could be traced to a childhood incident during which the hysteric patients had been sexually assaulted. A year later he abandoned this theory (the so-called seduction theory) and stated that most of the encounters described by his patients had been the products of their imaginations, but that the realness of their imagined encounters was nonetheless traumatic and that he continued to believe that repressed sexual thoughts were the origin of neuroses (Hergenhahn, 2013).
Compare and contrast Radical behaviorism and Cognitive Science.
Radical behaviorism constitutes the belief that a behavioral explanation cannot be founded on unobserved inner events and that what can be concretely observed are overt behavior and environmental events which should form the primary concern of a scientific behavior analysis. Psychologists, such as Watson, who deny the idea of mental events or think that they should be ignored represent radical behaviorism. Skinner and Watson did not deny the fact that private experience exists but he denied the mind/body dualism. In contrast, cognitive science is primarily focused on internal mental states.
The behavioral revolution—a debatable notion according to Leahey (as cited by Malone, 2009)—in psychology was focused on redefining psychology as the scientific study of behavior—language took the form of verbal behavior, intelligence was what intelligence tests measured, and perception was discrimination (Miller, 2003). Concepts like memories, emotions, thoughts were labeled as unscientific and replaced by S-R associations. Even though Watson influenced contemporary psychology to a significant extent, nowadays there is an abundance of psychologists who enthusiastically study the cognitive processes that Watson ridiculed or ignored.
The counter-revolution of cognitive science was focused on the idea that mentalistic notions would have to explain the behavioral information and made obvious the fact that behaviorism was not sufficient for the task. Cognitive science was the result of a redefinition of linguistics, anthropology and psychology during the beginnings of computer science and neuroscience. Among the pioneers of this revolution was Noam Chomsky who showed that people could produce an infinite number of new sentences, which suggested that people must have internalized a set of grammar rules, as opposed to having memorized a response list, like behavioral science would have suggested. Jerome Bruner revealed a novel aspect in people and described them active problem-solvers, and not as passive media learning new concepts. George Miller observed that people could quantify and recall approximately seven words, digits (and so on) at a time, which prompted him to conclude that the brain must be contracted by a set of seven “chunks” or units, like a bottleneck (Pinker, 2011).
How did Skinner’s approach to science differ from Hull’s and Tolman’s?
Neobehaviorism came to existence when logical positivism merged with behaviorism’ concern with primarily studying overt behavior and its focus on theory and operational definitions. In accordance with it, intervening variables were introduced in psychology. Tolman, instead of studying molecular or reflexive behavior, focused on molar behavior and used rats in his experiment to avoid introspection. He concluded that the learning processes evolves from the creation of hypothesis regarding what results in what in an environment to an expectancy and later to a belief—a set of beliefs formed a cognitive map. By using intervening variables more elaborately than Tolman, Hull created a self-correcting, open-ended learning theory. Hull equated reinforcement with drive reduction, and described the strength of habit as the number of reinforced couplings between S and R. Additionally he viewed reaction potential as a function of the habit strength and present drive amount. Both Tolman and Hull used logical positivism in their theories, but Tolman was a dualist (he thought behavior was determined by mental events) while Hull was a materialist and mechanist.
Skinner believed that reinforcement could be anything that changed the response’s probability and that nothing else needed to be investigated about reinforcement. He was convinced that one day we would be able to explain mental events by properly understanding which physiological events people respond to when they use notions like “willing” and “thinking” to rationalize their behavior. Moreover, he was adamant in his position that consciousness was a non-physical / non-existent entity and believed that, because of the fact that we have no knowledge of the inner events to which people are reacting when they use mentalistic terms, we must ignore them. Skinner, like Watson, was a radical behaviorist due to the fact that he was focused on environmental influences and excluded inner mental events and physiological processes. On the other hand, Hull and Tolman were methodological behaviorists because they were open to the possibility of theorizing on the inner causes of behavior (physiological drives, cognitive maps) (Hergenhahn, 2013).
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