Saturday, July 14, 2012

Final Post

To be honest, summer classes were not something I was looking forward to. When I signed up for this one it seemed interesting but I just couldn’t see how we could learn a lot of information in such a short period of time. Behavior has always been an interest of mine, I would watch people’s actions and always ask “Why did they do that?” I feel like in this class answered several of those questions on why people do what they do. Two of the main topics discussed were classical conditioning, where a reaction is conditioned to come after a stimulus and operant conditioning where behaviors are either enforced or stopped due to resulting outcome. It was interesting to see how the study of psychology progressed from a study of only observable behavior to internal behavior as well. For anybody who wants to be a psychologist or have a job in the field, this is definitely a beneficial class because it explains the reasoning behind phobias, addictions and other problems people deal with and how to reverse them.
I would say my favorite concept I learned was the stimulus-substitution theory. Drug related problems have always turned out to be complicated situations. I know a few people who struggle with addictions and its always been hard to understand them. The book uses heroin as an example where a person who shoots up has a decrease in blood pressure. The decrease is not only an unconditioned response but also a unconditioned stimuli to an increase in blood pressure which is the actual unconditioned response. As soon as people are in an environment or even craving their drug the blood pressure increases. This is probably why drug addicts begin to tweak out and suffer from drug withdrawal when they haven’t taken their drug. The environment plays an important part because drug related cues give them the symptoms that they are trying to avoid and thus they continue to use the drugs.
I had a friend who was hooked on several drugs and went to rehab when he realized how much he was ruining his life. He came out almost a new person. However after returning to the environment he began using again which is what he conditioned himself to do in the environment he was in. I now understand the psychology behind it and realize that to keep him clean he has to completely change environments to somewhere he will not be around any stimulus.
The video below goes into greater detail of drug psychology and causes of cravings

Friday, July 13, 2012

Grand Finale

Classical and operant conditioning were the main topics of the course. Both were examined in detail to learn about how behaviors are developed. There are many distinctions between behaviors. For example, behaviors can be overt (observable) or covert (unobservable). Some behaviors are physiological responses, such as fixed-action patterns and simple reflexes, and some are simply learned through reinforcement and punishment. The methods used to study behavior depend largely on what kinds of behaviors are being examined and whether they can be observed or not. Many of the methods used to test and research behavior were covered in this course such as observational studies and experimental studies. Different experimental designs were analyzed in terms of their applications, benefits and weaknesses.

This course really expanded my own understanding of behavior. For example, I’ve learned how behavior is learned and why certain behaviors persist more than others, even if maladaptive. For example, addictions and tolerance are effected by the opponent process theory, the prepatory response theory, and occasion setters. Phobias are developed by a process of overgeneralization and different methods used to treat phobias, such as systematic desensitization, counterconditioning, and flooding all aim towards extinction of fear and anxiety responses. I’ve learned how gambling is driven by a variable ratio schedule and depression can be elicited by a process of learned helplessness. I’ve also learned a great deal about how behaviors are increased or decreased in frequency. Reinforcers and punishers are not the only factors involved. There are schedule of reinforcement, positive and negative contingencies, motivational factors, genetic factors, and many other factors that affect the frequency of behaviors. I also learned about how nature and nurture have many effects on learning and behavior – both between and within species.

Overall, I think this course is essential for understanding the causes and treatments for any disorder, addiction, or simple behavior. Everything from anorexia, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcoholism, phobias, tantrums, withdrawal, tolerance, reflexes, animal behaviors, smoking cigarettes, abusive relationships, study habits, and so much more are all examined in terms of their underlying mechanisms. Understanding how these behaviors are developed and how treatments actually work is essential for any type of application. Anyone who plans on raising a child, teaching a class, owning a pet, having a relationship, or going into any type of clinical work would truly benefit from this class.

                Picking one single favorite topic is difficult, but I really enjoyed learning about operant conditioning and its methods that I can use to train my dog. My first dog was a golden retriever and she was super easy to train. I recently adopted a dog from the local animal shelter who is a bit more difficult to train but I feel as though it will be much easier now that I have learned so much about behavior and learning. In fact, in the last two days I have been working with my dog to do a new trick. Check it out in this video:

Final Post

 When I signed up for this course I wasn't sure what to expect. It was between this and another psychology class, and I'm happy I decided not to drop this class. Other classes have mentioned operant and classical conditioning, but they never went really in depth with these two theories. I'm happy that text book dedicated chapters to these two concepts, because I always wanted to take a deeper look into them. I also liked that text book didn't just present the conceptual definitions of these subjects. There were also examples of the different types of research done to help prove these theories. The expanded look into the research done with Pavlov's dogs or the Skinner box come to mind. I thought it was interesting how the text book took the findings from the lab work, and then applied these theories into real life situations. These real life examples definitely gave me better insight into my own behavior, and also into observing the behavior of people around me.
A real life example I thought was interesting was the compensatory response model and how it relates to drug tolerance. Powell et al. (2009) defines compensatory response as a CS that is repeatedly associated with the primary response (a-process) that elicits a compensatory response (b-process). For example drinking a glass of alcohol in a fancy restaurant as opposed to bar will result in a person feeling more tipsy in the restaurant. Drug tolerance isn't only dependent on the amount of the drug ingested but also the environmental cues that will trigger the compensatory response someone has grown accustomed to. I found it interesting that drug overdoses sometime don't have to do with the amount of drugs taken. The familiar environmental cues aren't there to help the body maintain the correct homeostasis to survive.

Final Post

In the beginning of this course I was unsure of what to expect. I wasn’t sure if the material was going to be interesting, boring, complicated, etc. However, once the course started and I began to read the text, I really enjoyed learning about how humans learn and behave. There were basic things I read about that we all experience almost every day unconsciously. Basically what I am trying to say is, the majority of the material mentioned in this book are things we already know or have done; it’s just given a “fancy” name. I enjoyed reading about items that I was already familiar with but were then broken down in simpler terms and researched in depth to get a deeper understanding.

The most fascinating concept I learned would have to be Classical Conditioning. Classical conditioning is a learning process that occurs between associations in environmental stimulus and naturally occurring stimulus. This type of conditioning involves introducing a neutral or unconditioned stimulus before a naturally occurring response. Classical Conditioning was one of my favorite topics we covered within the text. Unlike other topics, classical conditioning was the most appealing to learn about. Overall, this course has provided me with a better understanding of how we behave to certain situations and respond to actions. I would recommend all students to enroll in this course because it is full of very useful knowledge that can be used in every day life.

Final Post

I definitely did learn a lot during this class. I like how a lot of subjects in the textbooks went into depth, and didn’t just skim through the topic. I really like learning about BF Skinner. I think he is fascinating with everything that he has done. The textbook also really went into depth about classical conditioning, a lot more than I have learned in other classes. I have never really learned about overshadowing, blocking and latent inhibition.  Overall, I liked learning more in depth about all the topics in the textbook and I liked that it went more in depth with certain psychologists. I think this class was a stress free class. I liked that we had plenty of time to be able to log on and post our blogs. I wasn’t stressed with this class even while I’m taking three other summer courses. I liked reading other student’s posts and videos as well. Some students have really good videos they post! 
I think my favorite part of the class was how to treat phobias. Phobias always fascinated me because I could never understand how someone could be deathly afraid of something, even if it is something like a ballon. I also thought it was interesting to see the amount of phobias there are, and what they are called. People can have a phobia of hair, cotton balls, or even jarred pickles. I never could understand where the fear starts from. In the textbook it was interesting to learn the different ways to cure a phobia whether that is systematic desensitization, flooding therapy or aversion therapy. Since I am a psychology major, this relates to my life because I would like to learn more about phobias and maybe help treat people that have severe phobias. Most of these phobias are so severe that it effects their daily life and the people cannot have a normal lifestyle. I would really be interested in learning more about the reasons why people have phobias and the best ways to cure them.
Here is a video clip from Maury “Fear of birds & Cotton Balls”

Post #3 Punishment

I find the difference of positive and negative punishment to be interesting.  After working with children, it is clear that children respond differently to different ways of punishment. Positive punishment is when a behavior results in something someone doesn’t like and the person is less likely to behave that way again. One example of positive reinforcement is time out. Sometimes time out works great for kids, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. The child just wants even more attention. Negative punishment is the removal of a certain event following a response which leads to a decrease in the future strength of that response. One example of that is when your parents take your car away for missing your curfew or getting bad grades. I think this punishment is very successful because I’ve known what it is like to get my car taken away! It is the worst and I mad sure to improve my grades so that never happen again. 
This article I found interesting was from the super nanny website. She talks about how to make the “naughty step” work. She talks about how it is important to stay consistent with punishment and if the child continues bad behavior, to without speaking, place the child on the naughty step so that they learn their lesson. 

Final Post

 Throughout this course we covered many different topics and subjects.  I found basically all of them to be extremely interesting and helpful.  I thought we also covered the most important topics there are in Psychology. As a Psychology major I found myself learning more useful subjects then I have in pervious Psychology classes.  I really liked how this particular course was set up. I enjoyed the style and layout as well. I felt that there were not many assignments but all the assignments that we did had relevance to the class. I thought some of the material was pretty hard but I can say I learned a lot from it.  Choosing my favorite part of the class is hard because I loved all of the topics. One of my favorites was classical condition.  I think it is so interesting how this affects humans and animals as well.  I also thought the topic on Self Control was interesting. We can all relate to this one because it is part of life.  Self Control can occur with any kind of situation.  In addition, I love learning about different disorders. One of my favorites is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think I am so interested in it because I know people who suffer from this disorder and I am constantly learning about it in all of my Psychology classes. I thought Positive and Negative reinforcement was fun to learn about as well. It amazes me how this works in real life and how also how we can use this on animals and on humans.  This class will definitely help me in my further. As a Psychology major I plan to use all of this information in my career. I hope this information helps me became more intelligent about this field and be able to benefit my patients.  This class helped me grow and became more aware of everyday situations and topics that we are facing as a society. I would recommend this class class not only to Psychology majors but anyone because it had so many interesting facts and can me helpful in many different fields.       

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Extinction: An Effective Treatment for Tantrums

Tantrums in young children can be a serious behavioral problem for parents if not addressed properly. One of the best methods to stop a child from throwing tantrums is the process of extinction. Many parents find it difficult to ignore a child's pleas, screams, crying and fits during a tantrum but by giving a child attention when he or she throws a tantrum, parents actually reinforce the child's tantrum throwing behavior, making it more likely for the child to continue to throw a tantrum in the future. When a child throws a tantrum, the best action for a parent is negative punishment, meaning that the parent withdraws attention, affection, or whatever else could be viewed as a reward for the child's behavior. This will decrease the likelihood of a child throwing a tantrum in the future. The more times a child learns that he or she will not receive attention, affection, food, or whatever stimulus they may find rewarding, the more likely the tantrum behavior will result in extinction. In this episode of Supernanny, a method called "off the hip technique" is used as a negative punishment for a child with an out-of-control tantrum throwing behavior.

Why staying on track is so hard.

Have you ever tried a diet then during the process of healthy eating you fall into the temptation of eating junk food? According to the small-but-cumulative effects model, each individual choice on a self-control task has only a small but cumulative effect on our likelihood of obtaining the desired long-term outcome. The small-but-cumulative effects model readily explains how a self-control program can gradually deteriorate. Each temptation ahs only an insignificant effect on our long-term goal, individuals repeatedly are tempted to indulge themselves “just this once,” and easily indulge themselves attaining their long-term goal.

An example of this would be starting a diet. For the first few days or weeks you do great and eat healthy. But there is always that one person who brings that donut or brownie to a party, so you become tempted. You think to yourself, “Well… I have been eating healthy, one brownie won’t hurt right?” That one brownie turns into binging on pizza, cookies, and so on. (I’m not speaking of personal experience or anything!) But the question is, why do we then typically continue on that unfocused attitude for the next few days rather than going back on track with our initial goal? One possible explanation for this pattern is the choice between healthy and unhealthy eating has only a small but cumulative effect. A healthy eating program only makes sense if an individual sticks with it for a long time. The longer you remain on that same pattern of eating healthy, the more you are ensuring that you will make the same decisions in the future.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I found it interesting that obsessive compulsive disorder stems from avoidant behavior. The compulsions are actions used to avoid the anxiety that their obsessions and worries cause. Because the actions only give a temporary relief, the person suffering from the disorder must perform it over and over again to avoid becoming to anxious. I feel all people have a little bit of obsessive compulsive behavior in them but those with this disorder suffer due to its great impact on their life. I have a friend who most likely suffers from this disorder and is excessively checking she has everything before she leaves. It may not seem to be that big of a deal, rummaging through her purse at least three times to make sure she has everything. However the task is very time consuming and is the reason she is late for work, class and other important events. In the past she mentioned that she has forgotten to bring some pretty important stuff with her such as a cell phone, money, important papers which has probably caused her great anxiety which she is now trying to avoid.

The video below illustrates the nature of OCD and how obsessive thoughts infest the mind of someone who suffers from it

Positive and Negative Reinforcement/Punishment

I probably like most people thought that positive reinforcement/punishment actually meant that something positive was happening, and negative reinforcement/punishment mean that something negative was happening. Powell et al. (2009) explains that positive reinforcement simply means that the behavior is in response of something being added or presented. Negative reinforcement means that the behavior is in response of something being removed. The real difference between them is when the word reinforcement or punishment is used after them. Positive and negative reinforcement has the same aim which is to increase behavior. A mother that gives a child dessert after doing homework or takes away dessert because the child doesn't do homework still has the same aim, which is to increase the rate of doing homework. A parent taking away car keys because their teenager stayed out late would be negative punishment since the cars keys are being taken away, and they want to extinguish their child's late night partying behavior. Someone given a speeding ticket to decrease their speeding would be positive punishment. These concepts can still be confusing I thought this video below can help clear up the differences between these concepts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learned Helplessness

I found the learned helplessness phenomenon very interesting. Learned helplessness is basically when an animal or human makes no effort to help themselves due to a lack of control over situations in the past; they  basically give-up. It was first found in an experiment with dogs (Seligman and Maier, 1976) but it applies to humans as well. Learned helplessness is a characteristic of many depressed patients and it is also salient in education. Here's an example of learned helplessness in the classroom. 

The book says that people most vulnerable to learned helplessness are people who suffer a series of unfortunate events such as losing a job, becoming ill, or getting divorced. Research also suggests that learned helplessness is less likely to occur for individuals who have successfully overcome misfortunes in their past. If you're curious how "in-control" or "helpless" you think you are, you can take a free, quick, and easy test here: mindtools: are you in control?

As I was reading over the textbook, I found the topic on Self Control to be fascinating. Self control is the ability to control your emotions and behavior. It allows a person to act in a conduct manner in any given situation.  Self Control is something that everyone should have within and could be helpful in many situations.  I thought it was very interesting how depending on your personality, your self control can vary. Self Control is a form of expression that someone presents in their own way.  It is a form of expression that one acts upon because they are being polite and holding themselves back.  Self Control can change depending on your maturity and with age. Self Control can occur in many different situations.  You might have Self Control from food such as sweets or you might have Self Control by not shouting back at someone.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Systematic Desensitization

After reading about systematic desensitization, I realized that is a form of therapy I practice almost everyday.  Its a process of taking steps to relax someone and help reduce anxiety in fearful and stressful situations. A person masters relaxation techniques and imagines situations going from the least stressful to the most. I practice this technique of systematic desensitization when I engage in relaxing activities such as yoga and ballet. I occasionally think about things that give me anxiety while performing activities that calm me down and a relaxed mentality helps me look at the situation in a different way. A relaxed mindset also enables me realize what exactly about a situation makes me anxious, and being able to identify that helps me to fear it less. For some people relaxing is not easy, partly because their minds are constantly racing and its almost impossible for a person to stop on their own. That is a good reason why medications are sometimes prescribed to get people in a more relaxed mindset so they can work through their fears and anxieties. People are able to diminish or eliminate each fear by taking small steps. This video gives techniques to help reach a relaxed mindset

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fixed Action Patterns

There is something so fascinating about the complexity and variance of fixed action patterns across species. FAP’s exist in just about every species from the single-celled amoebas to giant humpback whales. Many species display unique mating rituals that are considered fixed action patterns. For example, seabirds like the Blue Footed Booby of the Galapagos Islands performs a strange dance in which the males show off the blue pigmentation of their feet to attract a female (the sign stimulus).  The Albatross sea birds also display a unique, species specific mating dance:

One of the most complex forms of communication through fixed actions patterns exists among the honeybees. Honeybee colonies have with specialized workers, one of which is the forager. Forager honeybees travel away from the hive, up to half a mile, in search of nectar and pollen. When they find flowers with these food sources, they travel back to the hive and tell the rest of the bees where to find the flowers. The way that they communicate this information is an amazing adaptation. Honeybees have terrible vision so they cannot use landmarks to communicate. Rather they have developed a language based on solar direction and distance. The foragers wiggle repeatedly at a specific angle relative to the sun and the amount of wiggles has been found to represent a specific distance.

Besides mating rituals and communication, fixed action patterns also serve as defense mechanisms. A few commonly known defense mechanisms are the opossums’ “playing dead” move, a skunk’s ability to spray a foul odor, or a lizard’s ability to detach its own tail. However, species of all kinds have adapted unique and unthinkable defense mechanisms. For example, when a horned lizard is attacked, it will pressurize its own sinus cavities until the blood vessels in its eyes burst and spray its attacker with blood. Malaysian ants have poisonous glands on both sides of their abdomen and if they are about to lose a battle, they will actually get close to their enemy and contract their enemy until they explode themselves like a suicide bomber. 

Covert Sensitization Post #2

After reading through the textbook and learning different ways of treatment, I found covert sensitization to be interesting. The book gives the example of someone that is trying to quit smoking. The person would visualize the cigarettes covered in feces or vomit. I think the treatment is extreme, but I think that if someone truly can stick with the notion that the cigarettes are covered in vomit, it could work for them. Personally, I don’t think I could train my mind to actually believe that. But over time, if you visualize that every time you went to smoke, you could actually start to believe it. I looked online to find more examples of when someone would use covert sensitization and found an interesting article about pedophiles who use this method to help them stop having inappropriate thoughts or actions. When the person starts to have these thoughts, they are told to imagine themselves being incarcerated or embarrassing and shamed in public. I think this is a good method for treatment because once someone has the negative thoughts that are linked to their problem, they are likely to never do it again.

Face Your Fear: Flooding Therapy

 Out of all the treatments used to cure phobias I found the flooding technique the most interesting. Powell et al. (2009) describes flooding as a behavioral therapy that involves the patient being face to face with their phobia for a prolonged period of time. The patient literally faces their greatest fear. This is obviously an unorthodox treatment but it seems to be effective in certain cases. It is completely different from the systematic desensitization treatment of phobias which seems to gradually countercondition a person's phobia. The idea is that the patient will be faced with their phobia for such an intense period of time that the stimulus causing the phobia will be extinct. The patient in the video below suffers from a fear of heights, and his phobia is clearly interfering with his life. As the video shows the therapist wastes no time in treating the patient's phobia with this technique and literally makes him climb the steps of a tall cathedral during their first session. I also found it interesting that the doctor points out that the the anxiety attack the person will suffer from can only last a certain amount of time. The body can only exert so much energy, and the intense anxiety doesn't last forever. Perhaps flooding cures a person's phobia once they force themselves to go through the anxiety attack, and get over that hump they never allowed themselves to through before.

Aversion Therapy: The Attack of the Spider

Aversion Therapy reduces the attractiveness of a desired event by associating it with an aversive stimulus. An ancient version of this treatment was suggested by Pliny the Elder, who treated this overindulgence in wine by secretly slipping the body of large spider into the bottom of the wine drinker’s glass. (Talk about cruel, wine can be expensive!!) The intention of this was that the feelings of revulsion elicited by a mouthful of spider would become associated with the wine, reducing the person’s desire for wine. I think this therapy can be associated with overshadowing. Now whenever that wine drinker sees a glass of wine, they will correlate a large spider just hanging out in the bottom of that glass. If you want to eliminate a habit, aversion therapy will definitely do the trick. However, if anyone ever put a spider in the bottom of my glass of wine, they better run extremely fast and get me a new bottle of wine!

Operant Conditioning

While reading over the textbook, I found the topic of Operant Conditioning to be most interesting. It is interesting how the laboratory environment-called a Skinner box was conducted.  It shows how the rats and pigeons behaved in a controlled environment by the light.  It shows how animals and humans have the relationships between reinforcement  and consequences.  It is true how positive reinforcement increases behavior and punishment decreases it.  It is human nature that we all act like this regardless if we are humans or animals.  It is amazing how smart the animals are to the experiment and how well they cooperate in the experiment.