Explanations of dysfunctional behaviour

Behavioural - Watson and Rayner

Biological - Gottesman and Shields

Cognitive - Beck

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  • Created by: Amy Leech
  • Created on: 17-03-13 09:44

Watson and Rayner; study of classical conditioning

Aim: To see if a conditioned response could be created in a previously normal child by using classical conditioning. 

Background: Watson and Rayner wanted to find out how simple emotional responses in childhood such as fear, rage and love became the more complete adult range of behaviours and beleived that classical conditioning had a role to play.

Sample: A nine- month old child, Albert who as the son of a wet nurse where Watson worked. He was described as 'stolid; which means calm and unemotional.

Method: A controlled experiment conducted as a case study.

Procedure: First a fear response was discovered in Albert which was the sound of a metal bar bein struck close to the child. This then feared sound was paired with the presentation of a white rat which the child had previosuly played happily with. This process was repeated over about 6 weeks with variations.

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Watson and Rayner; study of classical conditioning

Results: Within the first week, Albert showed fear towards the rat and this got worse over 7 sessions so that just the rat alone produced a strong repsonse. The fear then transferred to a rabbit, a dog, a seal fur coat, some cotton wool, Watson's hair to varying degrees. Building blocks were used as a neutral stimulus and they had the effect of calming Albert between the stressful presentations. He was removed from the hospital before they could test whether they could remove the fear.

Evalutation: Watson justified the stress on the child saying sooner or later this sort of thing would happen to him in real life. The study showed how powerful classical conditioning can be in explaining phobias.

The nature/nurture debate could be used here. Watson's work is clearly on the nurture side of this debate. Constrast with the evolutionary perspective of 'preparedness'.

Situational vs. dispositional explantions of behaviour also play a part. Was Alberts behaviour the result of his situation or his personality?

The usefulness of this research is that it provides an explantion and through systematic desensitisation, a cure for phobias.

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Gottesman and Shields; a review of recent adoption

Aim: To review research on fmaily, twin and adoption studies to test for evidence of a genetic cause.

Background: A dispute has arisen between those who believed that schizophrenia was caused by environmental factors such as schizophrenic or abnormal parenting and those who believed there was a genetic cause. Twin and adoption studies begun in the late 1960's attempted to resolve the issue.

Sample: In total there were 711 participants in the adoption studies and 210 monozygotic twins and 317 dizygotic twin sets studied.

Method: A review article of three adoption and five twin studies between 1967 and 1976.

Procedure: Concordance rates (how often both twins were diagnosed with schizophrenia) and incidence of schizophrenia in parents and children in biological and adoptive families were calculated in the studies.

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Gottesman and Shields; a review of recent adoption

Results: All three adoption studies showed increased incidence of schizophrenia in adopted children with a schizophrenic biological parent, but normal children fostered with a schizophrenic parent did not develop schizophrenia. In one study, the biological siblings of children with schizophrenia were found to have a 19.2% chance of also developing the condition. The twin studies, also supported the biological expanation, with monozygotic twins showing a 58% concordance rate compared to 12% in dizygotic twins.

Evaluation: Both genes and environment are each necessary but not sufficient for developing schizophrenia. There were disagreements on the diagnosis of schizophrenia across the studies. No single gene for schizophrenia has been identified.

Nature/nurture is a clear debate here with the use of twin studies which off the possibility to test genes against the enviornment. Once again, the reliability of diagonisis could be an issue here,

The usefulness of the research is questionable. The research suggests potential genetic cures but a need to isolate many genes first and also to investigate environmental causes, as yet unspecified, although cannabis is one suspect at the moment.

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Beck; Interviews with patients undergoing therapy

Aim: To understand how people with depression think and how their thinking differs from normal people.

Background: People with depression often have low slef-esteem, criticise themselves a lot and blame themselves for any failures which other people see as illogical and without nay basis in fact. This leads to a gradual withdrawal from other people and a failure to enjoy things once enjoyed. At its worst, suicidal thoughts of escape from a pointless life predominate.

Sample: 50 patients diagnosed with depression - 16 men and 34 women with a median age of 34. 12 were diagnosed as having psychotic-depressive or manic-depressive reactions and 38 as having neurotic-depressive reactions.

Method: Clinical interviews in a matched paired design as the patients were compared to a control group of non- depressed people matched for age, sex and social position.

Procedure: Clinical interviews using free association, formal analysis and diaries of thoughts were used to collect data and patients were asked about their thoughts before the interview and during the interview. The non-depressed patients also recorded their thoughts for comparision.

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Beck; Interviews with patients undergoing therapy

Results: There were clear differences between the two groups in certain themes of low self-esteem, self-blame, overwhelming responsibilities and a desire to escape. They felt anxiety by feeling they were in personal danger, a hypomanic state by themes of self-enhancement and a hostile paranoid state by themes of accusations against others. In addition there was a tendancy  to ruminate at length on failures. In all cases there was no logical basis for these feelings.

Evaluation: Collecting data in a therapeutic relationships lacks reliability and increases the likelihood of bias. The use of free association could have 'fed' negative ideas to the patients.

Freewill vs. determinisn - do patients consciously choose to think like this or is their condition determined by external factors in their lives?

Reductionism - reduces depression to illogical thinking.

As the research supports other similar research the findings are useful, but it lacks rigour and reliability. It provides an alternative to biological explanations which rely on drug- based therapies.

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