Neurons are the cells that form the basis of the nervous system. They have many branches (called dendrites) that increase the flexibility of the nervous system. These dendrites make it so that each neuron can connect with many others. At a synapse one neuron communicates with another. This is also where the message is relayed by chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are released from the presynaptic vesicles in one neuron. They will either stimulate or inhibit receptors in the other neuron.
Neurotransmitters play a large role in mental health. Serotonin plays a role in mood, sleep and appetite. Small amounts of serotonin have been found in people suffering from depression. Some antidepressant medications work by increasing the availability of serotonin at the postsynaptic receptor sites.
The theory of evolution has been used to explain how the human mind and behaviour have changed over millions of years. This is so that they are adapted to the demands on individual environments.
Darwin's theory of natural selection is that any geneticall determind behaviour that enhances the chance of survival and reproduction will be naturally selected and passed on to the next generation.
One of the key concepts of the evolutionary aproach is the environment of evolutionary adaptiveness (EEA). This is the environment in which the adapting happens and the selective pressures at the time. Evolutionary psychologists only assume that the behaviouts that ensure the survival in that particular environment are adaptive.
Localisation of Brain Function
This refers to the idea that certain areas of the brain are responsible for different functions. They have particular jobs and tasks that they need to carry out. The cerebal cortex covers the brain and is the area of the brain responsible for higher order cognitive functions.
For example, the cerebal cortex is divided into four regions: frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. Each of these four regions has a specific function. The frontal lobes are involved in thinking and creativity and can be linked to personalities. The parietal receive sensory information such as temperature, touch and pain. Temporal lobes are responsible for memory processing as well as processing auditory information such as speech. Finally, the occipital lobes process visual information and receive information directly from the eyes.
Humans are Born Like a Blank Slate (Tabula Rasa)
Behaviourists believe that when people are born their mind is a blank slate (also referred to as a 'tabula rasa' which is the Latin term). This means that humans are not born with any 'in-built' content, because of this behvaiour is not driven by internal events like thinking and emotion. The belief is that behaviour is learned from experiences. People do no think about their behvaiour, they respond passively to environemental stimuli. This view supports nurture over nature. What this means is that social and environamental factors have the greatest influence on behaviour rather than biological factors.
Traditional behaviourist theory would complete ignore any nature impacts such as genetics, evolution and physiology when it comes to explaining behaviour. This perspective is often called environmental determinism. This means that behaviour is determined by the environment a person grows up in. The associtaions made early on in life are provided by the environment and pre-determine reactions later on in life.
Behaviour Learned Through Condition
Classical Conditioning-New behaviours are learned through association. Before conditioning there is an unconditional stimulus (UCS) and an unconditioned response (UCR). During conditooning a neutral stimulus (NS) is presented alongside the UCS and this is repeated several times. This is where association happens. After conditoning the NS becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS) which produces the UCR which has now become the conditioned response (CR).
Operant Conditioning-New behaviours are learnt through reinforcement, which is something that will increase the chance that the behaviour will happen again. It can be positive or negative. Positive rewards good behaviour, which will increase the chance of this behaviour being repeated and therefore it has been strengthened. Negative also strengthens behaviour by taking away something unpleasant. For example, doing homework to escape getting a detention. Punishiment weakens behaviour as it decreases the likelihood of a behaviour reoccuring.
Humans and Animals Learn in the Same Way
Humans and non-human animals learn in the same which means that animal learning can be studied and used to make generalisations about human behaviour. Studies of animals being conditioned have been applied to behaviourist therapies. For example, to help people overcome problems such as phobias. In systematic desensitisation the client learns to asscoiate the phobic object with feelimgs of relaxation, rather than anxiety.
Operant conditioning principles developed from animals have been applied to help shape human behaviour, for example in education. Token economy systems is an example of this. This is where desirable behaviour is reinforced with 'tokens' that can be exchanged for rewards. For example, a sticker chart can be used to build up a certain amount of stickers that a child can then trade for a reward that they will enjoy such as sweets.
Cognitive psychologists have compare the human brain to a computer. For instance the way in which the brain takes in information (input), change/store (process and recall it when necessary (output). At the process stage cognitive processes of perception such as memory and attention are used. This is compared with the software of a computer.
The multistore model is an example of this approach. This idea suggests that information is input to the brain throught the senses (eyes etc) and moves to the Short Term Memory (STM) to store and then go goes to the Long Term Memory (LTM) to store. It is output when it is required.
Schemas are organised packets of information that are built up through experience and stored in the long term memory. For example, the 'dog schema' might contain 'four legs', 'furry', 'bark' etc.
Schemas are generally derived from past experiences. However, they can be refined through further interactions with the people and things around us. Schemas do not always represent reality as they are often built up through social exchanges such as conversations rather than personal experiences.
Internal Mental Processes
This approach sees human beings as information processes, where cognitive processes all work together to make sense of and respond to the world. The cogitive processes include perception, language, attention and memory. All of these processes relate to each other and constantly work together to help the individual to understand their environment. To see how these processes work the experience of recognising something can be considered. A person has to pay attentions, perceive the features, search in their memory and then use their language to name it. This is called information processing.
Processes such as introspection can be used to infer what is going on inside someones head.
Acknowledgment of Free Will
The positive approach belies that humans are in charge of emotions and have the free will to change how they direct their emotions. The assumptions is that humas are adaptive and self-directing, and also that a good life can be experienced if we use our strengths and virtues to enhance our lives. Seligman says that happiness is not a result of good genes or luck but recognising strengths and developing these to make life better and minimise negativity.
Authenticity of Goodness and Excellence
This assumptions states that feelings of happiness and goodness are as natural as stress and anxiety. Therefore positive and negative states of mind deserve equal amounts of attention. Seligman (2002) states that traits such as happiness and virtue are less authentic than negative traits. He believes that humans inherit traits (signature strengths) such as humour. These traits need to be nurtured in order to transform lives. The aim is to focus on the good things in life instead of magnifying the worst.
This assumption is useful in therapies. The therapist facilitates positive well-being and helps to achieve fulfilment. It can be achieved by focusing on traits that produce goodness and excellence,a nd helping people to understand these good traits can be developed. The positive approach believes that such understanding will prevent the individual from future mental health problems as well as being important in its own right.
Focus on 'The Good Life'
Seligman (2003) talks about 3 desirable lives:
-The pleasant life: happiness comes from positive emotions past, present & future
-The good life: happiness comes from activities that absorb and engage us
-The meaningful life: happiness comes from fulfilment of living for a putpose greater than oneself
The pleasant life is the starting point, next is the good life. Seligman encourages people to seek a meaningful life. To acheive the good life, strengths and virtues need to be developed. This is because they are natural routes to gratification. Seligman suggests that the good life is combined of 3 elements: Positive connection to others, positive individual traits and life regulation qualities.
There are 3 parts of the adult personalitly, developed at different stages of life.
Id-Impulsive and unconscious, present at birth. Demands immediate satisfaction (pleasure principle). Main aim is to gain gratification at any cost.
Ego-Conscious and rational, develops at age 2. Works out relaistic ways of balancing the demands of the id in a socially acceptable way. Reality principle.
Superego-Forms at age 4. Embodies child sense of right and wrong as well as ideal self. Seeks to perfect and civilise behaviour. Learned through identification with one's parents and others.
Id and superego are often in conflict (battle between right and wrong). Ego acts as a referee & resolves the conflict, considering the consequences.
These are symbolic processes.
Influence of Childhood Experiences
Childhood experiences influence adult personality. Psychological development takes place in psychosexual stages. Each stage represents a body part and a fixation caused by a problem. Fixation can occur through frustration (F):stage has not been resolved because needs have not been met or overindulgence (O):needs have been oversatisfied so they are too comfortable to move on to the next stage.
Oral (0-18mths): Breastfeeding. F=envy O=optimism
Anal (18mths-3yrs): Potty training. F=stubborn O=messy
Phallic (3-5yrs): Oedipus complex leads to superego and gender identity. Self-assured
Latency (5yrs-puberty): Knowledge and understanding of the world. No fixations as no pleasure focus.
Genital: (puberty onwards): well-developed adult personality.
The Unconscious Mind
The mind is like an iceberg-lots lies under the surface. This is the unconscious and preconscious mind. Conscious is logical unlike unconscious which is ruled by pleasure. Unconscious cannot be directly accessed, expresses itself indirectly (dreams). Unconscious contains unresolved conflicts that determine behaviour. They are threatening so they appear in the shape of symbols. The unconscious is related to ego defence mechanisms. Conflicts in the tripartite personality cause anxiety. The ego protects itself with various ego defences. These defences can be disturbed by behaviour if they are overused. Defence mechanisms include: displacement (transfer impulses onto something else), projection (undesirable thoughts are attributed to someone else) and repression (pushing painful memories into the unconscious so that they are forgotten).