|Home > Psychology >|
Psychology: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Section 1 of 2 - Prev - Next
Archive-name: usenet/sci.psychology/faq.txt Last-change: 4 Apr 1996 by Rolf Lindgren (email@example.com) Introduction 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. References 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 HOW CAN I DO A LITERATURE SEARCH THROUGH THE INTERNET? 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. IS THE MBTI, MMPI, WAIS, NEO-PI, RORSCHACH, ETC. AVAILABLE BY ANONYMOUS FTP? 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 circumstances. 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. WHICH PSYCHOLOGICAL RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE INTERNET? 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: http://www.apa.org The American Psychologial Association http://psych.hanover.edu/APS The American Psychologial Society http://www.coil.com/ grohol Psych Central, kept by one of the moderators of sci.psychology.research USENET WHAT IS USENET? 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. SOFTWARE 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 IMPORTANCE OF KILL FILES 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 features. WHICH NEWSGROUPS ARE OF INTEREST 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. sci.psychology.announce - Announcement of psychology conferences, etc (moderated) sci.psychology.consciousness - On the nature of consciousness (moderated) sci.psychology.journals.psyche - E-journal on consciousness (Psyche) (moderated) sci.psychology.journals.psycoloquy - E-journal on psychology (Psycoloquy) (moderated) sci.psychology.misc - General discussion of psychology sci.psychology.personality - All personality systems & measurement sci.psychology.psychotherapy - Practice of psychotherapy sci.psychology.research - Research issues in psychology (moderated) sci.psychology.theory - Theories of psychology & behavior A comprehensive list of psychology-related newsgroups can be found at http://www.coil.com/ grohol/news.htm. WWW The amount of psychology-related WWW sites has grown tremedously lately. These might provide good starting points: The American Psychological Association APA The American Psychological Society APS The Canadian Psychological Association CPA The British Psychological Society BPS 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. MY FRIEND HAS [OR I HAVE] THIS PROBLEM, WHERE CAN I FIND HELP? The newsgroup more appropriate for this type of question is alt.psychology.help. 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. ISN'T IT TERRIBLE [...OR WORSE] THAT IN OUR SOCIETY, WE HAVE TO PAY PEOPLE TO LISTEN TO OUR PROBLEMS? ISN'T, IN MANY CASES, JUST A FRIEND WHAT IS NEEDED? 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. WHAT DOES THE FOLLOWING DIAGNOSIS IMPLY: [...] 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 question. 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. Neurosis DESCRIPTION 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 anxiety. 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 it? HISTORY 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 rewards. 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. Psychosis 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 as * schizophrenia * paranoid disturbance * psychotic disturbances which cannot be placed in the other categories * severe mood disorders such as melancholia and mania, otherwise known as manic-depressive and depressive psychoses, or bipolar and unipolar affective psychoses. SCHIZOPHRENIA AND THE AFFECTIVE DISTURBANCES 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 Europe. Schizophernia is commonly categorized into five subgroups: * Catatonic - the patient is, in general, extremely withdrawn and uncommunicative. * 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. DESCRIPTION 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 A THEORY OF BORDERLINES 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. SOME SPECULATION 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 all-important. 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. TREATMENT 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. WHAT ARE SOME GOOD GENERAL INTRODUCTIONS TO PSYCHOLOGY? General 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: Wiley Social psychology Gergen, Kenneth J. & Gergen, Mary M. (1986) Social psychology 2nd ed. New York: Springer History Schultz, Duane P. & Schultz, Sydney Ellen (1992) A history of modern psychology 5th ed. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN DEGREES & TITLES IN PSYCHOLOGY/PSYCHIATRY 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. M.S. (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.
Section 1 of 2 - Prev - Next
|Back to category Psychology - Use Smart Search|
|Home - Smart Search - About the project - Feedback|