Psychology

The following are bits of writing from many sources such as personal correspondence, posts to on-line discussion groups, notes, and occasionally even some journaling. All of this is informal in nature, but contains some interesting and/or useful information.

Freud
[from an email with a friend]
>So are you saying that Freudian ideas are fake?
It's a little more complicated than that. They're metaphors, and they only become problematic when they are applied too rigidly and/or their adherents lose track of the fact that they *are* metaphors. For example, the idea of the Id, Ego, and Super-Ego are useful when talking about certain problems, just as an "anal retentive" label is a good descriptor of a particular personality type. But do these things exist? Probably not. You might find decent parallels between, say, the amygdala and the Id under certain conditions and the prefrontal cortex and the Super-Ego, but the relationship between the brain regions don't follow the patterns Freud described between this imaginary trinity in everyone's heads. You can't point to Freud's concepts anatomically, you can't address them surgically, you can't measure their activity with an EEG or fMRI, so do they exist? I know brain function has been addressed experimentally, so I'm more inclined to go with that. However, metaphors are useful, I won't deny that. Just don't get carried away with invented concepts when you're talking about *real* people.
>Freud - is he the guy who thinks every problem comes from your parents and/or sex?
Yes, and there's certainly some validity to some of his ideas. However, they have a flawed basis. For one thing, a lot of the early patients he examined were young women who were emotionally troubled. When he spoke with them, they frequently related stories of sexual abuse by relatives and friends of the family. In spite of criticisms to the contrary, Freud was a decent guy, so he honestly thought that nothing like that could possibly e going on. As a result, he assumed they were making it all up in order to cover up other, more deep-seated problems. Or course, today we know the reality is that these girls had a legitimate history, so Freud not only set psychology back in basing things on false assumptions, but also the acknowledgment of the reality of sexual abuse.

Fuzzy logic
There are a lot more examples of fuzzy logic such as the cooperation game. Let's say Person A gives Person B $100. Person B has to offer you a certain amount of money from what you know is $100. If you accept, you each get to keep your respective portions of the $100. However, if you refuse, then neither of you will get anything. Most people will reject offers that they perceive as "too low." Say Person B offers you $1. That means (s)he pockets $99. Most participants in the game reject the offer. Guess what? They're out $1 no matter how much Person B doesn't get. The *logical* thing would be to accept every offer. Of course, there's a "greater good" that humans (and other primates, incidentally) seem to have built in, which is that they are "punishing" Person B for not exhibiting cooperative behavior.
I guess a better example would be how people will try across town for $10 off of a $20 item, but won't do the same for $50 off of a $500 item. In one case they save $10; in the other they save $50. In the real world, money only works in absolute terms, but in our minds, money is a relative thing. Stupid humans.

Re-socialization
One of the professors in my department was notoriously anti-social with other professors and students. When he was teaching, he was constantly joking and being silly, but he was almost rude when he was around others. Since his lab was right across the hall from mine and my office, he used to pass there fairly often, so if I saw him I always tried to be polite and say hello.
Well, that didn't get much of a response, but I felt more uncomfortable pretending I didn't see him, so I went in the opposite direction. Every time I saw him, I gave him a big wave and a loud hello. He couldn't help but acknowledge this overly friendly (read: obnoxious) display, so he was forced to give me a hello. After a couple weeks of this, he started just acknowledging me even before I could say anything, perhaps as a preemptive move.
Finally, I figured the battle was won, so I backed off on the effort. After all, it took a lot of energy and I often had to break away from who I was talking to at the time (although my labmates were in on the joke). Unfortunately, without the constant prodding from this elaborate presentation, he quickly slipped back into his old ways. I guess I won't be able to publish on this experiment.

Causes and effects
Psychological disorders are usually described by their "symptoms." However, a disease is based in its cause more than its manifestations. How a root cause (whatever it may be) expresses itself is going to vary from one person to the next based on life experiences and the immediacy (availability) of activities that allow engagement in those traits.

Psychology
Here's a funny story, but I will start with a funny experiment. A child psychologist noticed that babies sometimes grew anxious when their respective mothers left the room under certain circumstances, but not others. To investigate this more closely babies sat in a highchair in the kitchen. The mother would leave the room through different doors for varying amounts of time. The most interesting, if not altogether surprising, finding was that babies noticed which doors were appropriate for how long an exit. For example, the pantry should require only a 30 minute visit, tops. When mommy disappeared into the pantry and didn't return for more than a reasonable amount of time, uh oh!
I tried a similar experiment on my dogs. One of them, Minnie, happened to be in the living room the other night. We have this closet in the middle of the house that connects to the bedroom on one side and the living room on the other. The funny thing is that we never go into the closet from the living room; we just block the doorway from the inside with all the clothes hanging in front of it. I was getting clothes out of the closet from the bedroom side and heard C playing with Minnie. The experiment popped into my mind. I came out the other side of the closet into the living room and Minnie started barking like mad. It was like aliens had landed. She would not stop barking for almost 5 minutes even though I was talking to her the whole time. It's still so easy to freak her out. Beetle couldn't care less.

Behaviorism
I used to deal with a narcisist on almost a daily basis. At first I used to just listen to her rants and attention-getting devices. Eventually though I just started to walk out of the room on when she exhibited any behavior that was intended to get me to provide reinforcement for her (e.g., get me worked up, make me comment on something she said, compliment her, etc.). She's still a narcisist, but all her manipulations are defused, so she has to act like a normal, reasonable person around me.

Freud
This is what Freud was trying to do: hypothesizing about brain regions/semi-autonomous entities that directed thoughts, behaviors, and other mental processes.




Copyright Alexplorer.

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