Development and Communication, Dissertation – Literature Example
Words: 5465Dissertation - Literature
A major aim of psychology today is the application of experimental studies of mental functions and behaviors to determine how the human brain works. Although it appears that we have collected a wealth of knowledge on the subject, the field of psychology as we know it hadn’t existed until the 1870’s; before then, considerations of the mind and behavior were analyzed only through the field of philosophy. However, the advent of knowledge and new ways of thinking called for psychology to be a unique discipline of its own. Recent technology has allowed scientists to measure brain waves and determine what types of thoughts and actions are controlled by the various areas of the brain. Furthermore, neuroscientists have used this information to gain insight into cures for mental illnesses. Since psychology is a rapidly evolving field, it is essential to understand its origins to gain insight into modern studies. Since modes of communication have rapidly changed to allow this information to evolve overtime, it is also important to understand how communication between scientists has aided the development of this field.
Most of the modern thinking about psychology began with the Ancient Greeks who developed many ideas about the brain and human behavior. However, it wasn’t until German physician Franz Joseph Gall developed the concept of phrenology in 1796 that people began to explore the possibility of exploring the mind and its workings experimentally (Fodor, 1983). Phrenology aimed to determine which part of the brain controls which aspects of the human existence, including emotions, ability to speak, purposeful actions, and unintentional actions. Researchers who believed that the brain was compartmentalized according to function used measurements of internal brain mass of each section of the brain to determine its corresponding action. Many phrenologists would attempt to measure brain mass by touching places on people’s heads. Despite the sense that this experimental evidence made to scientists in the 18th and 19thcentury, there was little scientific evidence to indicate that brain mass and brain function had a real relationship. As such, this idea was entirely dismissed as inaccurate in 1840. However, phrenology had allowed scientists to recognize that different parts of the brain may control different actions. It wasn’t until the development of electroencephalography (EEG) however that this concept was able to be measured using the scientific method (Niedermeyer et al., 2004).
The first man who was considered to be a modern psychologist was Wilhem Wundt who lived in Germany between 1832 and 1920. He was the first person to consider psychology as a separate field from biology and philosophy and created the first psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig in 1879. Furthermore, he helped further the field of psychology by publishing many texts on the subject throughout his life. Many of his studies aimed to understand the relationship between the human brain, physiology, and muscle movements. Wundt contributed to the spread of psychology as a school of thought in significant ways. He spent most of his life defining the field of psychology and philosophically and experimentally determining its principles. He trained many skilled students in the field, and encouraged the publications of scientific literature by creating the first psychology journal.
Wundt’s studies ignited an interest in the people of Europe and the time period that followed his scholarly teachings increased the efficacy with which we define how our minds are related to the rest of our body. Three men that contributed greatly to our psychological body of the knowledge at the time included Hermann Ebbinghaus in his studies of memory, William James in his studies of pragmatism, and Ivan Pavlov in his studies of classical conditioning. Although these men developed knowledge that many people use in their current understanding of psychology, the scientific methods that they used to develop these principles are of equal importance.
In 1185, Hermann Ebbinghaus published a hallmark paper entitled “Memory. A Contribution to Experimental Psychology” that demonstrated the first ways psychologists were able to gain an understanding of memory processes using experimental procedures. Ebbinghaus was interested in learning what kinds of things we remember, how we are able to remember them, and how our brain uses them to generate response. As such, his first studies aimed to determine how people respond to stimuli and he recorded observations he made on himself. To further his studies, he defined the concept of the “nonsense syllable” in order to test the memory processes of others. Ebbinghaus described this concept himself by stating, “Out of the simple consonants of the alphabet and our eleven vowels and diphthongs all possible syllables of a certain sort were constructed, a vowel sound being placed between two consonants. These syllables, about 2,300 in number, were mixed together and then drawn out by chance and used to construct series of different lengths, several of which each time formed the material for a test” (Ebbinghaus, 1885). This was useful to him because along, the syllables are neutral in meaning, homogeneous, and simple. Therefore, Ebbinghaus developed a quantitative manner of understanding how much meaningless information the human brain was capable of processing. Overall, he found that the time it takes to learn the nonsense syllables increase as the number of nonsense syllables provided to the participant also increases. In addition, he found that teaching the participants the syllables over several sessions was more effective to their learning then trying to teach it to them in one sitting and that continuing to rehearse the syllables increases the likelihood of their retention. When comparing material that makes sense to the learner compared to nonsense material, he also discovered that the memorization of meaningful material occurs much more quickly.
Although Ebbinghaus conducted much of his work in the years from 1867 to 1909, his work has remained the basis of what we understand about memory. Later psychological tests use the basis of his “nonsense syllable” which both confirm his findings and build upon his work. Ebbinghaus’ studies are currently used by students and other professions who require the ability to effectively memorize a large amount of information in a short period of time. Firstly, these principles refute the usefulness of cramming because it has been experimentally demonstrated that information is better retained when it is rehearsed for several days before it needs to be recalled. Secondly, it shows that information that is meaningful is easier to remember than information that is nonsense. As a consequence, it is essential for students to take courses that are at their learning level and slowly advance through difficulty so they can maximally understand these subjects.
William James is well-known for his concept of pragmatism which rejects the idea that thoughts simply function as descriptions of things and are rather used as tools for problem solving, action, and prediction. James enhanced the spread of psychology to the world by starting the first psychology course in the United States. Furthermore, he authored a textbook entitled “The Principles of Psychology” which fostered the understanding of psychological ideas. Although a lot of work that James left behind was a hybrid of psychology and philosophy, he contributed several hypotheses regarding reaction to stimuli and understanding of this stimuli. His most well-known theory is entitled the “James-Lange theory of emotion” because Carl Lange independently came to understand the same concept in the 1880’s. It theorizes that are psychological conditions are conditioned responses that we received from a stimulus. James has famously said “it is not that we see a bear, fear it, and run. We see a bear and run, consequently we fear the bear” (LeDoux, 1996). This indicates that we respond to stimuli almost immediately but it takes us time to learn from events and associate our emotions with them. This thought significantly contributed to the modern understanding of the “flight-or-fight” response in which our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems receive stimuli that trigger involuntary responses. Instead of being able to make an active decision about removing our finger from hot surfaces and running from danger, we instantly take these actions and then think about it later. Although scientists are still trying to gain a greater understanding of the pathway that causes this kind of reaction, James provided the thoughts that initiated its study.
Although James contributed greatly to the role of pragmatism in psychological research, psychologists today are hindered by the fact that many of his works are difficult to obtain. Additionally, the early works of Ebbinghaus and Wundt are nearly impossible to use as primary sources because they exist primarily in German and although several groups have translated the work, it’s difficult to claim whether it maintains the integrity of the original work. Furthermore, these works are not typically published online which requires the reader to obtain an original version of the documents. This may require researchers to travel far out of the way to obtain the information from the original libraries that held these documents.
Ivan Pavlov conducted a series of experiments on what he termed “classical conditioning” into a book entitled “Conditioned Reflexes”. It is interesting to note that in these early scientific reports are for the first time in a format that is recognizable in comparison to modern journals. While the works of James and Ebbinghaus had been published to report findings, Pavlov’s publications focused for the first time on the experimental method used to retrieve the results. In science, the experimental method is occasionally more useful to the reader than the results because without assessing the method, it is impossible to determine the efficacy of the results. As a consequence, the modern American Psychological Association requires the journal articles to be in a form that includes an abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion section. Although Pavlov’s publication doesn’t adhere to these standards, it at least indicates a movement towards the publication of clearer experimental results and methods and allows the audience to critically examine his work.
The first lecture in Pavlov’s book, appropriately entitled “Lecture 1” examines the relationship between human reflexes and their location of origin in the human brain (Pavlov, 1927). This lecture introduces one of his most famous experiments, which takes a psychological perspective of how people train behaviors. Since humans have been training dogs to perform various activities over many years, he uses the dog as his main subject. He hypothesized that a conditioned stimulus is able to signal the occurrence of a second stimulus. To test this theory, Pavlov would ring a bell before feeding a dog. After continuing this practice several times, the dog learned to associate the ringing of the bell with feeding time. As a consequence, the dog would begin to salivate when hearing the bell ring as a natural reaction to thinking it would get food. This is an important indication of how humans integrate certain events into their memory; some stimuli trigger the presence of other stimuli which usually indicates that a second event will occur.
After the fundamentals of psychology had been developed in the 20th century, other fields of study began to become interested in its principles. As a consequence, the study of psychology expanded to include applications to industry, law, and education. Furthermore, the experimental value and thinking of psychology had dramatically expanded overtime as the consequence of knowledge collected from early experimentation, the advent of new technology, and the continued spread of psychological ideas. While most of the psychological experimentation that was conducted in the late 1800’s focused on reaction to stimuli and memory, later experiments attempted to define specific functions of these processes. One of the notable scientists who contributed greatly to our understanding of visual stimuli was Charles Sanders Peirce, who attempted to understand the mechanism that allows us to see in color.
During his life, Charles Sanders Peirce received much acclaim for his work due to the nature of his publications. As a mathematician, philosopher, logician, and scientist, his experiments entered many well-known journals of the period including “Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences”, the “Journal of Speculative Philosophy”, “The Monist”, “Popular Science Monthly”, the “American Journal of Mathematics”, “Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences”, and “The Nation”. Since Peirce had made many contributions to psychology, his works have been compiled and made available as internet sources. This has been useful to many modern researchers who continue to both cite and piggyback off of his work.
Peirce’s work took advantage of the scientific method using observational studies. Ultimately, his primary observations that animals may not see in color led to future studies that tested this theory more objectively. Christine Ladd-Franklin lived during the same time period as Peirce and was famously known as his PhD student (Hurvich, 1975). As a result of both this and his widespread acclaim, she was able to build upon his work in the field of color vision. Franklin agreed with the opinion that animals may see differently than humans and believed that the major difference between human vision and animal vision was a consequence of evolutionary principles. After years of studying the relationship between color and vision, she reported that “some animals are color blind and that achromatic vision appeared first in evolution and color vision came later”, that “the human eye carries vestiges of its earlier evolutionary development”, that “the most highly evolved part of the eye is the fovea, where, at least in daylight, visual acuity and color sensitivity are greatest”. Furthermore, she assumed that “peripheral vision was more primitive than foveal vision because night vision and movement detection are crucial for survival” (Hergenhahn, 2009).
As a consequence of her observation studies, Ladd-Franklin concluded that color vision evolved to exist in three stages that include achromatic vision which is vision consisting of only black and white hues, blue/yellow sensitivity, and red-green sensitivity. She claimed that since red-green sensitivity was the last type of chromatic vision to have evolved, some people actually lack the ability to detect these colors in the course of evolution which has led to a defect we call color blindness. This is a significant contribution to our understanding of vision because psychology lecturers continue to educate their students about Ladd-Franklin’s findings when they educate their students about perception and colored vision. Ladd-Franklin’s publication, “The Reddish Blue Arcs and the Reddish Blue Glow of the Retina; an Emanation from Stimulated Nerve Fibre” helped collect the observations and results she gathered over her entire life which enabled others to continue her research by further defining the relationship between color vision and the mind.
The advent of experimental psychology gave rise to other psychological subfields of this practice including functionalism, psychoanalysis, and structuralism. Functionalism is the study of the acts and functions of the mind rather than its internal contents, psychoanalysis attempts to use the unconscious mind to explain thoughts and actions, and structuralism is the point of view that all mental experiences could be understood as a combination of events and functions of the mind. Although all three methods of study have proved useful in the evolving field of psychology, the element that is most closely related to modern psychological therapy and medicine is the advent of psychoanalysis that was developed by Sigmund Freud. While many of the concepts that he developed seem erroneous today, Freud laid the foundation for psychotherapy and allowed others to further develop the way we use our understanding of the mind to treat patients with psychological disorders.
Sigmund Freud was a neurologist who became interested in determining the reason his patients developed psychological distress, how psychological distress is different from other types of physiological illness, and how the differences between psychological and physiological illness could be used to treat patients. To address this problem, he famously created a concept known as a “case study” in which a single patient is observed closely and the characteristics of the individual’s illness are used to draw conclusions about the causes of the illness and extrapolate this information to help cure people that experience similar symptoms.
Freud’s first method of treatment involved hypnotizing the patient. Before the advent of experimental psychology, Freud’s comrades such as Jean-Marin Charcot believed there to be a significant connection between the treatment of hysteria and hypnosis. This heavily influenced Freud’s later work because there were claims of a patient referred to as Anna O who was cured of her hysteria through a “talking cure” that was induced by hypnosis. This cure made Freud realize that it may be the talking rather than the hypnosis that was effectively helping the patient, as they helped her realize the root causes of the trauma that was causing her hysteria; as the therapy with Anna O continued, her symptoms lessened. He called this concept “free association” in which a patient should talk to their doctor about whatever memories occurred to them in progression because it would allow them to eventually identify the point in history that led to their traumatic experience. A second tool that Freud would use to help uncover hidden memories is the interpretation of dreams, and he would frequently ask his patients to record their dreams and discuss them in the clinic. By 1896, Freud believed that the “free association” and discussion of dream methods were so effective to his patients that he abandoned the concept of hypnosis altogether in favor of psychoanalysis, which was the name he ascribed to this new technique (Frosh, 2004).
A major issue with Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis, which was corrected by later scientists and physicians, was the fact that he used psychoanalysis on himself and a small sample of his patients in order to develop the standards of health and understanding of the mind that he would use in treating his patients. It is fortunate that Freud issued a great many publications during his life time so that future researchers were able to reanalyze his methods and determine the difference between what was useful and what was trash. The English translations of his most famous publications were entitled “Studies on Hysteria (1985)”, “Delusion and Dream in Jensen’s Gradiva (1907)”, and “The Future of an Illusion (1927). In addition to his publications, he wrote many letters that helped more realistically explain and define his principles. Interestingly, he used his theory of psychoanalysis and the case study method to analyze a broad array of subjects including story book characters and religious leaders. Although this is an interesting concept, applying principles that were meant to understand the human psyche to fictional characters may leave the reader with misleading results.
Freud’s work with treatments and diagnoses also provide a clearer understanding of how people with psychological disorders were typically treated in the 20th century. The foundation of psychological work that had preceded him defined psychological abnormalities as an illness that could be properly fixed if the write treatments are given. As a consequence, those with severe disorders such as schizophrenia were issued lobotomies, electric shock therapy, and water treatments. Despite this, there was no experimental proof that these treatments were useful to the patient and there was a clear need for something that could interfere with the chemical imbalances of the brain that were causing these difficulties. Therefore, Freud was a large supporter of the use of cocaine in the treatment of psychological disabilities.
Freud believed that cocaine was a miracle drug that could work as a stimulant, analgesic, antidepressant, and anesthetic. Although we are currently aware of the damaging properties of this drug, the 20th century had less observational and experimental experience that would indicate its harmful effects. Furthermore, the medications available during this period were very few in number and the medical interventions that currently existed for psychological disorders bordered on torture. As a consequence, Freud was interested in its applications for these patients and found many potential uses of the drug, writing many articles considering its application between 1883 and 1887. As Freud’s studies of cocaine continued, he found that other physicians found it useful in procedures such as delicate eye surgery and morphine addiction (Byck, 1974). While it is possible that the use of cocaine may have had many useful aspects in the field of medicine, users quickly began to notice that it could induce a unique form of psychosis and lead to overdose in extreme cases. Freud did document the doses that should be used for each medical purpose, but the fact that cocaine could be addictive with large amounts of use damaged his reputation as a healthcare practitioner. After the advent of increased amounts of addiction with use, he ceased promoting the useful qualities of the drug even though he continued to quietly recommend it to his friends and continued to use it himself.
Despite the addictive qualities of cocaine use, Freud demonstrated that it did have some useful properties that may have drastically improved the treatment of psychological treatments if its abuse had been prevented. While cocaine is no longer used for medical purposes, Freud’s experimental research with the drug helped defined psychological illnesses. In the 18th and 19th centuries, people believed that psychological illnesses were a result of the devil taking over the body or some kind of abnormality that was the fault of those who suffered from it. Demonstrating that some psychological issues could be treated with medication however classified psychological abnormalities as an illness that could be treated and that these illnesses were not the fault of the patient. As a consequence, focus shifted from blaming the patients for these issues to trying to explain the reasons for and to treat these problems.
Sigmund Freud’s work continued to expand the evolution of the field of psychology by attempting to more closely define vague functions we ascribe to the mind, such as intelligence. In 1905, standard intelligence quotient (IQ) tests were developed by Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon to address this issue. This was particularly useful to future research studies in the field because it helped define intelligence in terms of quantitative values which assisted the ability to measure statistical associations between certain aspects of psychological health and intelligence. The questions that this innovation helped address included the concept of whether people with certain psychological issues are less intelligent, why certain people are more intelligent than others, and what factors impact intelligence in the general population. The test is scored in a way that a person of average intelligence should score a 100, while scores generally range between 70 and 130, with a score of 70 indicating an extremely low level of intelligence and a score of 130 indicating an extremely high level of intelligence. This theory was useful to the field of experimental psychology because it allowed other researchers to refine the test to ensure that accuracy and fairness are adequately challenged. Measures of IQ helped researchers define the major differences between mental retardation, learning disabilities, normal intelligence, and advanced cognitive understanding (Rawson et al., 2008).
In addition to the understanding of intelligence as a whole, an aspect of psychology that began to change in 1908 that furthered the way psychological patients were treated in asylums came with the publication of “A Mind that Found Itself” by Clifford Beers. Unlike the other characters that helped shape modern psychology, Beers was a mental patient himself. His book discussed the inhumane ways that some people are treated in mental asylums and he detailed his own path to recovery. This account was particularly important to the evolution of the field because for the first time, it gave professional psychologists and physicians to see inside of the heads of their patients. Beers’ account reminded them that their patients are not inhuman and current methods they believe to be helping them are not working. It calls for greater education of the public concerning mental health and how to properly care for relatives that seem to be having mental health difficulty (Beers, 1908).
Beers’ autobiography had a widespread impact on the psychological and medical world because it provided a first person account of life in the mental asylum. Although patients like Beers were high functioning and some managed to recover despite the erroneous medical treatments that were offered, he called for a clear need to address the ways that psychological problems were being dealt with at large. A major form of communication that arose after the publication of this book was academic conferences and meetings in which field professionals would discuss their work, current needs in the field, and to determine the ways in which the needs of the field could be addressed. Just a year after the book’s publication in 1909, psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung visited the United States for a Psychoanalysis Symposium at Clark University organized by G. Stanley Hall (Clark University, n.d.). This conference was meaningful for several reasons. Firstly, although this was Freud’s first and only talk in the United States, it fostered the spread of ideas from Europe to the Western world. It enabled American scientists to gain a greater understanding of these concepts and build upon this research more effectively than they had been able to using just his manuscripts. Furthermore, it marked the shift from Europe being a major center of psychological studies to the advancement of knowledge and increased awareness of psychological issues and research worldwide.
In 1913, the concept of behaviorism replaced the importance of psychoanalysis principles in psychological studies. John B. Watson popularized this principle with the publication of his book, “Psychology as Behavior”. The main goal of behaviorism is to objectively predict and control behavior. Unlike psychological studies of the past, this type of research attempts to provide people with a practical application of psychology; Watson made his idea popular by claiming that behaviorism could help train animals, raise children, and launch effective advertisements (Watson, 1913). Watson’s ideas were novel because he claims that there is no major difference between the behavior of civilized men and untamed beasts. This opinion provided great contrast to principles promoted by the church, which believed that men were made separately from beasts and have a sense of morality, which they lack. Behaviorism claims that men are born without any concept of morality although it is taught to us, and it studies the processes by which we obtain this morality.
One of Watson’s great contributions to psychology was documented in a publication entitled “Psychological Care of Infant and Child” in 1928 (Watson, 1928). Although modern psychologists do not agree with some of the principles of child rearing that the publication promotes, it allows us to understand that psychological principles can be applied to how children are raised and how our actions can potentially alter their behaviors. One of the most controversial experiments that Watson conducted was known as the “Little Albert Experiment” in which Watson attempted to utilize Pavlov’s principles of classical conditioning on a child rather than an animal. Instead of responses to food, they wished for the child to be afraid of a white rat. In the presence of the white rat, the 11-month old boy was not typically afraid. However, Watson started clanging an iron rod when Albert was in the presence of the white rat, which would make him cry. Eventually, the white rat was presented without the clanging of the iron rod, and Albert would cry, demonstrating that classical conditioning was possible on humans. Furthermore, it was found that objects that reminded Albert of the white rat would also make him cry; these items included a rabbit, fur coat, and a dog.
Although Watson’s study may have proven an important psychological concept, it gave rise to ethical considerations in the field of psychology. The scientists never unconditioned Albert after the study, and they believe that he was likely afraid of anything that reminded him of the white rat throughout his life. In years to come, this study helped promote the idea that human experimentation should be limited and that study participants must be made fully aware of any potential negative effects of their participation in the study. Furthermore, patients that are unable to consent themselves must receive approval for participation from a research review board in addition to permission from their legal guardian.
During the 1920’s, many advances in psychological technology were developed. In 1921, the Rorschach test was developed in which subjects are asked to view an inkblot and determine what images they see within it. The responses are then interpreted based on psychoanalysis and allow the physician or researcher to gain a greater understanding into their patient’s state of mind. In 1929, the electroencephalogram was invented by Psychiatrist Hans Berger. It allows the psychologist to examine internal brain activity by placing sensitive electrodes of the head of the participant. Both of these devices contributed to the evolution of psychology because they allowed future researchers to include a greater number of quantities and qualitative measurements in their studies. Publications and communications that relied the success of these devices allowed them to become more widespread and increase our understanding of mental states, depression, and the activities associated with each area of the brain.
The 1950’s led to the advent of drug development to treat psychological disorders. In 1951, the first drug to treat depression, Tofranil was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. In 1952, anti-psychosis drug, Thorazine was tested and approved in Paris; the drug reached the United States two years later. This facilitated the evolution of psychology even further; the focus had officially shifted from understanding psychological principles to using this understanding to treat patients. As such, psychology branched into three more field in 1954 with approval from the American Psychological Association, and included biopsychology, psychopharmacology, and humanistic psychology.
Medical advances between the 1970’s and 2000’s furthered the connection between psychology practice and medicine. More and more drugs to treat various psychological disorders were approved, medical screening devices such as the PET scan were developed, and psychological illnesses were provided with specific definitions to allow for easier diagnosis and treatment recommendations. The years following 2000 contributed to a high level of psychological experimental progress that it is nearly impossible to chronicle all of the discoveries made. With the advent of the human genome project completion, researchers are finally able to gain an understanding of the link between psychological issues and human genetics. In the 19th and 20th century, many physicians believed that people with psychological disorders were somehow different and inhuman. Now, it has been shown that many of these psychological maladies are genetically inherited and could run in families. Furthermore, researchers are trying to elucidate the interactions between these genes and environmental factors to explore more effective treatments.
In conclusion, the field of psychology has come a long way since Wundt created the first psychology lab. The spread of ideas and publications that have ensued in the years to follow this endeavor sparked in interest in the understanding of the human mind in people all over the world. Thanks to these advances, we have developed advanced medications to treat people with psychological illnesses in addition to screening processes that allow us to detect these disorders. Although we currently understand a lot about the brain and its processes, it is necessary to continue this work into the future. As communication among scientists continues however, this advancement is inevitable. Scientists like Ebbinghaus, Frued, and Ladd-Franklin provided an excellent foundation for modern researchers to build upon. In the years to come, modern researchers will continue to review these ideas that were developed in the 20th century and continue to reject some information and add upon other information in order to mold the field as a whole. While there is a long way to go in curing many psychological illnesses, we can take pride in the fact that we have made must progress compared to the mental asylums that were prevalent when the field of psychology was first developed.
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