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Archive-name: usenet/sci.psychology/faq.txt
Last-change:  4 Apr 1996 by Rolf Lindgren (


   An FAQ is a list of answers to those questions which appear very
   often. The purpose of an FAQ is twofold as a general service to the
   readers: to avoid needless cluttering of the group, and to provide
   answers to questions that seem to be of importance to a lot of people.
   This FAQ is intended for readers of the sci.* hierarchy. As such, it
   concentrates on questions regarding academic psychology. It does not
   attempt to cover mental health or self-help, but it does have pointers
   to such information.
   Academic psychology being what it is, the study of human development,
   thought and behavior, closely linked to epistemology, philosophy,
   sociology, anthropology and in general all things arguable, this FAQ
   will be a target for flames and discussion. Which is, I suppose, how
   it should be. Corrections, additions, questions and meta-questions can
   be directed to me or to the group as considered appropriate.
   This FAQ will be posted monthly.
   In addition to questions asked on sci.psychology, I have included
   questions that I receive personally from time to time.
                           IS PSYCHOLOGY A SCIENCE?
   There seems to be a confusion of levels regarding this problem.
   Academic psychology is a scientific project, initiated by Wilhelm
   Wundt at the University of Leipzig ca. 1885. His project was the study
   of the average adult human mind, and the scientific method used was
   introspection. His approach has been long since abandoned, and so have
   many of his ideals, but not the basic ideal of understanding or
   describing human functioning within a scientific context.
   Psychotherapy, on the other hand, is no more a science than is civil
   engineering: ideally, scientifically investigated therapeutic
   techiques are used together with ethical and philosophical principles
   in order to achieve some desired outcome. Psychotherapy, then, is a
   mixture of a craft and an art.

   Dawes, Robyn
          (1994) House of cards: Psychology and psychotehrapy built on
          myth New York: Free Press
   Collins, Harry. M. & Pinch, Trevor
          (1993) The golem: what everyone should know about science
          Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
   Gould, Stephen Jay
          (1981) The mismeasure of man New York: Norton
   Kuhn, Thomas S.
          (1973) The Structure of scientific revolutions 2.edition,
          enlarged. Chicago: University of Chicago press
   Radner, Daisie & Radner, Michael
          (1982) Science and Unreason Belmont: Wadsworth
   Wolpert, Lewis
          (1993) The unnatural nature of science Cambridge, Mass.:
          Harvard University Press
   Currently, there are two ways to search for literature: either,
   manually search through the Social Science Citation Index, or search
   PsychLit, which is a CD-ROM based collection of searchable abstracts
   and references. Both are commercial products and cost $$$. That's why
   they are not publicly available through the Internet.
   Most university libraries carry the SSCI and/or PsychLit.
   CompuServe, apparently, provides access to PsychLit and other similar
   resources. This service is not free.
   After you have done your literature search and if you still
   haven't found exactly what you're looking for, try to post a question
   to sci.psychology.research.
   No. Because there's money in them, and also because:
   The purpose of any test is to differentiate the test takers from those
   who have already taken the test. Therefore, the conditions under which
   the test is administred should always remain the same.
   Also, the publisher of a test normally wants to keep some level of
   control over test administration. This is because the value of a test
   decreases if the test items becomes generally known, or if it is known
   that the test has previously been administered under less than serious
   Therefore, psychological tests are usually not only copyrighted,
   several tests can only be administred by licensed psychologists who
   have completed courses in administring the test.
   Sometimes the manuals are publicly available.
   What is sometimes available are usually quick-and-dirty variants of
   the MBTI.
   When I first wrote this FAQ, there were one or two sites of interest.
   The amount of sites now has exploded. Here are the ones I believe are
   the most comprehensive:
          The American Psychologial Association
          The American Psychologial Society
          Psych Central, kept by one of the moderators of

   USENET is a network of electronic bulletin boards, more formally known
   as News or Internet News. Most colleges and Internet Service Providers
   provide acces to News, both for reading and posting.
   If you are using a Macintosh, use NewsWatcher, InterNews, Nuntius or
   one of their derivatives.
   If you are using a Windows or OS/2-based PC, use WinVn or Agent.
   If you are using a line-oriented UNIX shell account use GNUS under GNU
   Emacs, pine, slrn, or tin. If you have access to X Windows, you might
   consider xrn.
   I recommend not using Web browsers such as Netscape, Mosaic or the
   like for reading News. There are two main reasons for this: firstly,
   that these programs lack several important features such as kill
   files, and proper editing facilitites; secondly, at least Netscape
   uses as default a character encoding mechanism which is incompatible
   with the way most other newsreaders work. If you have to use Netscape,
   at least turn on Allow 8-bit and turn off MIME Compliant (Quoted
   Printable) (Options -> Mail and News preferences).
   Also, make sure that the character set you are using is eiher us ascii
   or iso8859-1.
   The volume on the psychology-related news groups is very high, and
   many items might not be of interest to you. A kill file can help
   keeping the noise level down. All of the above mentioned newsreaders
   (but not Netscape, which is why I advise against using it) support
   kill files to a lesser or greater extent, and have a variety of nice
   There are two main hierarchies for psychology-related newsgroups, the
   sci and the alt hierarchies. The newsgroups of the alt hierarchy are
   too numerous to be listed here. The newsgroups of the sci hierarchy
   are dedicated to the scientific discussion of psychology. Some of them
   are moderated, which means that articles are screened for relevance
   before they are posted.
          - Announcement of psychology conferences, etc (moderated)
          - On the nature of consciousness (moderated)
          - E-journal on consciousness (Psyche) (moderated)
          - E-journal on psychology (Psycoloquy) (moderated)
          - General discussion of psychology
          - All personality systems & measurement
          - Practice of psychotherapy
          - Research issues in psychology (moderated)
          - Theories of psychology & behavior
   A comprehensive list of psychology-related newsgroups can be found at grohol/news.htm.

   The amount of psychology-related WWW sites has grown tremedously
   lately. These might provide good starting points:
   The American Psychological Association
   The American Psychological Society
   The Canadian Psychological Association
   The British Psychological Society
   If you haven't got access to a graphical World Wide Web browsers, such
   as Netscape or Mosaic, lynx can be used by all computer systems that I
   know of. TCP/IP is required, on the other hand, if you haven't got
   TCP/IP then you're not on the Internet.
   The newsgroup more appropriate for this type of question is
   In general, I can't answer this question because this varies from
   country to country. I would always, though, recommend professional
   therapy. For many normal problems, group therapy is a relevant and
   underused alternative. See also 7.
   There are two dangers in choosing a friend for support rather than a
   psychologist. I call them the container effect and the birds of a
   feather effect.
The container

   The container patiently listens to your problems and identifies or has
   empathy with you. They're good to have because they provide basic
   support, and are often an individual in distress' sole need: when the
   immediate problem is solved, the problem ceases to be.
   However, in order to actually solve a difficult problem, the container
   can help to maintain a problem because the container is a friend and
   does not confront, or, confronts but inappropriately. This can
   jeopardize a friendship which is of course valuable in its own right,
   without solving anything.
   A trained psychologist does not contain, and confronts appropriately.
Birds of a feather flock together

   Poeple who suffer from the same problems tend to seek together, either
   unconsciously or for support. Once to many, I've seen people who have
   the same problem refuse to confront it, and as a result actually
   accelerate each other's psychopathology.
   This occurs relatively fast and is one of the reasons why group
   therapy may be very effective. In group therapy, the interaction
   between people and their symptoms are supervised by the therapist, who
   (hopefully) will confront the clients when appropriate.
   I am of the impression that the most commonly found diagnoses these
   days are manic-depressive and borderline personality disorders
   (figures are welcome).
   In general, discussions of people's diagnoses are not particularly
   pertinent to this newsgroup - academic psychologists, to whom this
   newsgroup is dedicated, are supposed to know this.
   Discussion of theories of personality disorders and/or their
   treatment, on the other hand, would be appropriate.
   Rather, consider why you want to know what implications a disorder
   has. If it is of intellectual curiosity, the best thing would be to
   read about the disorder in question. Exellent sources are
   Sarason, Irwin G. & Sarason, Barbara R
          (1989) Abnormal psychology: The problem of maladative behavior
          6th Edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
   Martin, Barclay
          (1981) Abnormal psychology: Clinical and scientific
          perspectives 2nd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
   Unfortunately, textbooks often present clear-cut examples, and even if
   they tend to warn the reader that real life is different, it's
   difficult to understand just how different--and in which ways
   different without actual clinical experience with the disorders in
   If your interest is due to an aquaintance, friend, or family member's
   diagnosis, I advice against digging deeply into textbooks without
   actually consulting a psychologist--at least if you plan to apply the
   knowledge in any way. It's not necessary to know a lot about a
   disorder in order to help somebody suffering from a problem. Knowledge
   can help to steer away from pitfalls, on the other hand, it can turn a
   friend into a stereotype.
   Diagnoses are troublesome to begin with, and many psychologists are
   wary of using diagnoses at all. It seems that the medical model of
   finding the cause of a problem and then curing the problem by treating
   the cause does not work with many psychological conditions.
                        NEUROSIS, BORDERLINE, PSYCHOSIS
   While the contributors to the psychology newsgroups are, in general,
   expected be familiar with these terms, questions now and again relate
   to their meaning, diagnosis, cause and cure. In the following, I
   attempt to present a brief overview. Please refer to the alt.*
   hierarchy for specific questions.

   You've left your apartment for the night and have taken to town with a
   couple of friends. After your second beer, you realize that you can't
   remember whether or not you locked the door before you left. You start
   feeling a little anxious: you tend not to forget to close the door
   and you live in a pretty safe neighborhood. When you arrive home later
   at night you find that the door was locked all the time and that there
   really was nothing to worry about.
   Now, this is quite normal, and if you had called your neighbor to make
   sure that you had not forgotten to lock the door that would have been
   quite normal too.
   Unless it happens every weekend, every day, several times a day, even
   though you know that you checked that the door was locked three
   times before you left your apartment. This is, indeed, the hallmark
   of the neurosis: repeated patterns of behavior associated with
   All of us are to some extent neurotic; neuroticism is one of our
   character traits. There are certain things we associate with anxiety
   and which we deal with in less than constructive ways. A neurosis is
   usually regarded as something to worry about only if it keeps you from
   enjoying life.
   Three questions remain to be answered as regards neuroses:
     * Where do they come from?
     * How are they cured?
     * Does one need to know the origin of a neurosis in order to cure
   The term hysteria originated with Hippocrates. He thought that the
   cause of hysteria was irregular movement of blood from the internal
   genitalia to the brain. Plato believed that the uterus gif was an
   independent being which longed for children. If the uterus was never
   fertilized, then it would wander restlessly about in the body and
   cause shortage of breath and other symptoms gif .
   Even though the classical explanations of hysteria do not bear much in
   common with our current understanding of the neuroses, the phenomenon
   as such, unwarranted anxiety, is the same.
   The term neurosis was used for the first time in 1776 by the
   Scottish doctor, William Cullen. He believed that neuroses are caused
   by disturbances in the nervous system and not, as was commonly held,
   in the cardiovascular system gif .
    The view from Psychoanalysis
   In his original theory of the neuroses, Sigmund Freud drew heavily on
   his tutor Jean-Martin Charcot from the Salpétrière Hospital in Paris,
   and Charcot's student, Pierre Janet.
   Freud came to use hypnosis as the method of choice against hysteria in
   his first years, as he had learned in Paris. Disappointed with the
   results, in particular, in reppearences of the symptoms in his
   clients, he introduced the method of free association and gradually
   turned away from biological explanations of the neuroses.
   Freud had his theoretical background from the psychodynamic schools of
   psychology and psychiatry. Psychodynamicists base much of their ideas
   about both normal and pathological mental functioning on the notion of
   intrapsychic processes.
   According to Freud, neuroses are manifestations or symptoms of
   anxiety-producing unconscious matter. Some thoughts are too painful to
   bear, but still they must find some expression. The psychoanalytic
   method of curing neuroses, then, was introduced as an attempt to
   unravel the intrapsychic conflict. The ``Royal Road'' to the
   unconscious, where the causes of neuroses are buried, according to
   Freud, was the interpretation of dreams.
   The existence of the unconscious has been scientifically demonstrated
   - we do have thoughts, emotions and ideas of which we are unaware but
   which nevertheless affect our behavior and our conscious thoughts and
   ideas. The existence of an unconscious in the psychodynamic sense has
   been much more difficult to demonstrate.
   In the United States and also in Europe, psychoanalysis gained a
   strong foothold relatively fast. In the USA, psychoanalysis replaced
   the Emmanuel movement as the most common treatment of nervous
   disorders upon the first American tour of Freud and Jung in 1909 .
    The view from Behavioral Analysis and Cognitive Psychology
   Behaviorism, which holds that the proper subject of Psychology should
   be the study and description of behavior, was initiated by Johns
   Hopkins University professor of Psychology, James B. Watson. Following
   a scandal involving research on sexual behavior in collaboration with
   a graduate student but without the consent of his wife, he left Johns
   Hopkins and founded the psychological basis of the commercial
   advertisement industry as we know it today.
   The definitive statement of the theoretical foundation of behaviorism
   was published by B. F. Skinner, possibly the world's most influential
   psychologist next to Freud, in 1936[]. Here, he argues that emotions,
   thoughts and feelings belong to a different explanatory level than
   behavior, and cannot, therefore, be said to account for behavior in a
   scientifically valid sense.
   Skinner differentiates between operant and respondent behavior.
   Operant behavior is behavior where the originating forces are not in
   the environment: instinctive or species-specific behavior. Respondent
   behavior is behavior which can be accounted for by referring to the
   stimuli that initiated it.
   Behaviorism covers a vast area of models and theories, and seeks to
   establish laws of behavior. The simplest law is this: if an item of
   behavior elicits a response that the organism finds rewarding, the
   probablity of the same behavior under similar circumstances is
   increased. It is interesting to note that behaviorists tend to
   maintain that both reward and punishment tend to increase likelihood
   of behavior, while no response tends to decrease it.
   This is the core of the behaviorist understanding of the neuroses. A
   behaviorist description of neurotic behavior would attempt to account
   for the rewards that the neurotic behavior gives the client, and, in
   therapy, try to substitute the neurotic rewards with more appropriate
   Aaron T. Beck, in his formulation of cognitive therapy, claims that a
   neurosis can be viewed as attempts to avoid the fear of punishment,
   rather than the punishment itself. So the neurotic never learns that
   his fears are unwarranted because avoiding fear of failure keeps the
   neurotic from experiencing both failure and success.

   Where the neurotic and the borderline have a firm if troubled grip on
   reality, the psychotic is out of touch with reality.
   The DSM III-R has abandoned the concept of psychosis. What used to be
   classified as functional psychosis, i.e. psychoses that are not
   caused by organic damage of the central nervous system, are now listed
     * schizophrenia
     * paranoid disturbance
     * psychotic disturbances which cannot be placed in the other
     * severe mood disorders such as melancholia and mania, otherwise
       known as manic-depressive and depressive psychoses, or bipolar and
       unipolar affective psychoses.
   Schizophrenia covers a class of disturbances of thought and emotion. A
   schizophrenic has severe difficulties in organizing his or her
   thoughts and in relating to his or her emotions. Schizophrenia
   actually means split mind, and refers to the patient's apparent
   inability to organize his thoughts into a coherent whole.
   After the movie, "All about Eve", which depicted a woman with multiple
   personality disorder (MPD), the prevalence of MPD increased
   dramatically. Also, MPD became synonymous with schizophrenia, which is
   entirely different.
   A shizophrenic will typically posess uncontrollable thoughts, hear
   voices, and have a flattened personality: behavior is stereotypical,
   behavior is rarely initiated, or both.
   Describing schizophrenia to a US audience is difficult because Europe
   and the USA differ in their diagnostic practice. The European
   tradition, which I will lean towards in the following, has a much
   narrower concept than the US, and consequently a larger percentage of
   the population is diagnosed with schizophrenia in the USA than in
   Schizophernia is commonly categorized into five subgroups:
     * Catatonic - the patient is, in general, extremely withdrawn and
     * Disorganized - speech is incoherent and emotionally detached.
     * Paranoid - the client suffers from delusions of paranoia,
       grandeur, or both.
     * Undifferentiated - all or most of the above symptoms are present,
       none particularly much more than the other
     * Residual - no particular symptoms are present, but the client is
       changed and socially inept.
   the validity of this classification is weak. all of the symptoms are
   present in most schizophrenics, categorization is performed according
   to which symptom set is most apparent.
   In general, recovery from schizophrenia is rare.
Borderline Personality Disorder

   Arnold Becker is a sucessful lawyer at a firm in Los Angeles. His
   domestic life, however, is not so sucessful; as a matter of fact, to
   his own great dissatisfaction he finds himself chasing one
   relationship after the other.
   Nevertheless Arnold succeeds in building some sort of a friendship
   with an elderly gentleman with whom he can discuss his problems.
   During one of their encounters, the elderly gentleman complaints of a
   strong heartburn, receiving little empathy from Arnold who is immersed
   in his own troubles. They both exchange concerns for their respective
   ailments until the elderly gentleman falls on top of his desk,
   obviously the victim of a sudden and fatal stroke.
   Arnold steps forward to his friend and takes his pulse. Finding no
   signs of life, he exclaims: ``Great! Now I have to develop intimacy
   with an entirely different person.'' Arnold Becker seems to suffer
   from Borderline Personality Disorder.
   There does not seem to be any consensus regarding the cause and
   treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. The outline presented
   below is not to be considered canonical.
   Some major identifying characteristics of the borderline are
     * Intense, unstable personal relationships
     * Repetitive self-destructive behaviors
     * Chronic fears of abandonment
     * Chronic feelings of intense anger, loneliness, and emptyness
   Otto Kernberg has postulated a theory of BPD based on a phenomenon he
   describes as splitting. It is based on a psyhcoanalytical theory
   known as object relations theory. I feel that his treatment makes
   sense whether one does believe in psychoanalysis or not. If you know
   of a better model, please tell me.
   An object in object relations theory is an individual who is
   emotionally important. an individuals first objects are his or her
   parents; later, other members of the family, friends, lovers, etc.
   become objects in this sense.
   To the infant, objects are his or her perceptions of other people,
   and there is one object for each important set of emotions related to
   each person. So a mother, say, is split in the infant's mind into a
   good mother who provides food and shelter, and a bad mother who
   provides punsishment or just a feeling of absence when she's not
   there. Part of an individual's development consists in merging these
   fragmented objects into more complex objects which provide a truer
   intuitive model of the individual. Maturity means, among other things,
   being able to perceive an individual in terms of all of his or her
   traits. An mature person views the punishing and the rewarding mother
   as two aspects of the same individual.
   An immature person, however, views the punishing and the rewarding
   mother as two separate objects. An a person who's in love will only
   perceive the good object of his or her affection, and normally for a
   while at least be unable or highly unwilling to perceive the rest.
   This phenomenon is known as splitting, and is considered a very
   immature defense mechanism.
   Splitting appears to be the main defense mechanism of the borderline.
   A borderline perceives people in terms of black and white or as either
   good or bad objects. The main problem in handling borderlines is to
   cope with their unrealistic views of other people - and in their
   attempts to create self-fulfilling prophecies to make the world fit
   with his or her perceptions. If a borderline perceives you as a good
   object, he or she will go to greath lengths in providing situations or
   interpretations compatible with this view.
   Most borderlines seem to have lost a person of emotional importance
   sometime between ages 3 and 18. This emotional trauma, which most
   people handle adequately, seems to have a stronger than usual impact
   on borderlines. It seems as if the trauma of losing a close person is
   so strong that avoiding the possibility of any subsequent loss becomes
   This, perhaps, explains why borderlines do not form close
   relationships or strong emotional ties to other people because they
   are too afraid to lose them.
   Borderlines are a puzzle, and there does not currently seem to exist
   effective treatment procedures. Long-term follow-up studies indicate
   that borderline individuals who have received intensive treatment and
   are from high socioeconomic levels have a fairly good chance of
   developing full-time employment.

   Atkinson Rita L. et al.
          (1993) Introduction to psychology 11th ed. Fort Worth, Tex.:
          Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
   Carlson, Neil R.
          (1993) Psychology: the science of behavior 4th ed. Boston:
          Allyn and Bacon
   Gleitman, Henry
          Psychology 3rd ed. New York: Norton
Personality psychology

   Pervin, Lawrence A.
          (1993) Personality: theory and research 6th ed. New York:
Social psychology

   Gergen, Kenneth J. & Gergen, Mary M.
          (1986) Social psychology 2nd ed. New York: Springer

   Schultz, Duane P. & Schultz, Sydney Ellen
          (1992) A history of modern psychology 5th ed. San Diego:
          Harcourt Brace Jovanovich
   This section is courtesy John Grohol
Ph.D. - Psychologist

     Doctorate of Philosophy - Research degree
     Doctoral degree in either clinical or counseling psychology
   This is the traditional degree of practicing, academic, and research
   psychologists. Training includes courses in psychological assessment,
   theories and practice of different types of psychotherapy, research
   and statistics, as well as diagnosis and ethics. A dissertation is
   required which must be defended. A pre-internship experience (called a
   ``practicum'') is usually an intergral part of the program. Some
   programs require multiple practica. Average length of program is 5 to
   6 years. Ph.D. psychologists pursue careers in academia, practice, and
   politics, among other areas.
Psy.D. - Psychologist

     Doctorate of Psychology - Professional degree
     Doctoral degree in clinical psychology.
   This is a newer (circa. 1968) degree offered to those individuals
   interested exclusively in the practice of psychology. It's focus tends
   to be more clinically-oriented than the traditional Ph.D., offering
   more pre-internship experience and practical coursework, in lieu of
   courses on research and statistics (although most Psy.D. programs also
   require a dissertation). Some programs require up to three practica
   experiences before internship. Average length of program is 5 to 6
   years. Most Psy.D. psychologists pursue careers in practice. As with
   the above doctoral degree, psychologists aren't eligible to become
   licensed in a state (a legal distinction, not an educational one)
   until at least one year after receiving their degree.

     (varying terms from state to state, such as: Psychotherapist,
     Counselor, Therapist, etc.)
     Master of Science Degree
     Master's degree in clinical or counseling psychology
   For many graduate programs, this is a pre-requisite before admittance.

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