Thursday, 16 October 2008

Back from the beyond

Wow! There's certainly been tumble weed blowing around in here!

It seems like an age since I wrote in this-and indeed, it has been! Once hubby came back from the Falkland Islands it just seemed impossible to keep up with-what with the kids, my job my hubby, my house my friends-oh and the course work itself! But I wanted to pop in one last time to say cheerio and goodluck to all my fellow DSE212'ers. I've moved onto DZR222 now and am trying to get stuck into that-rest assured I have forgotten most of DSE212 by now! I'm pleased to say that I managed a pass 2 only just missing a distinction, and given that I didn't even submit the last TMA that I think that's jolly good!

One last word and two fingers up to my biggest critic for every time I heard:

'you're not good enough'

'you can never do this'

'that's rubbish, you can't submit that'

'you may as well quit'.

I certainly proved myself wrong didn't I!

Candyflee xx

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Thursday, 21 February 2008

Ode to Elaine Paige


Do you like what I did with the title? Elaine Paige? Memories? No?

That's right, this week's study is on chapter 8, Memory: Strucures, processes and skills. I've really enjoyed this week and am having a hard time deciding which option to do for the assignment as I've really loved both chapters, although I think there's slightly more in the way of evaluative material available for the first option, which is the aim of this assignment I think.

Anyway, lets get to it, I want this done by the weekend so I can get drunk and watch Dancing On Ice (it's the new X-Factor you know).

Memory is thought to consist of three main processes: Encoding (where new info from the senses is coded), storage (where said info is retained into the memory's storage systems) and retrieval (recovery of info from said storage syytems). Retrieval includes both recall ("recalling" something from your memory bank, a phone number for example) and recognition (recognising something, a person's face perhaps). These processes coexist and work together to create memory. Sometimes info can be encoded poorly at the first stage, and therefore not stored properly which has a knock on effect for retrieval, although retrieval may still be possible if cues are given, ie contextual info or hints (known as retrieval cues).

Key subsystems in memory include:
  • Sensory memory (SM): Holds uncoded info for a few seconds.
  • Short term memory (STM): A few seconds or minutes long.
  • Long term memory (LTM): Long term storage of memory.

SM is where info from the senses is picked up straight away (a perceptual record). Info from the senses that gets out attention goes into SM and from there can possibly get encoded into STM. STM is though to only last a few seconds (ie when we are dialling a phone number). If the number is practised loads then it may get coded and end up in LTM, which is possibly unlimited and where memories can last a life time (ie, I can still remember being in nursery at age 3 when a clown came to visit and I was so scared that I wet my knickers infront of the headmaster. True story).

People are more likely to remember the first lot of info from a set and the last lot of info, forgetting the middle bit. This is known as the primacy effect and the recency effect. First items are possibly called from LTM and last items from STM. Baddeley and Hitch (1974) developed this theory further and suggested that STM was not only a stop gap between perception and LTM, but an integral and active part of both the intake and retrieval of new memories, and renamed STM 'working memory'.

There are several ways to study memory: lab experiments, quasi-experiments, field experiments, diary studies and cross sectioanl studies, computational models and neuropsychology such as brain imaging.

Craik and Lockhart (1972) developed the levels of processing theory which proposed that remembering things is dependant on how deeply it was processed at an earlier stage-the deeper it is processed (or the more it was revised, for example) the more likely it is to be remembered. Deep processing takes place when things are encoded it terms of it's meaning and this is known as semantic processing. It involves elaborative rehearsal (linking meaning of something to other associated stored material), whereas more 'shallow' rehearsal, known as maintenance rehearsal, involves merely repeating something over and over until it is learned. This is known as the generation effect (see page 121).

Hermann Ebbinghaus (1885) proposed that spacing out learning (ie having revising sessions spread over two days instead of cramming, a particular skill of mine lol) lead to the spacing effect, whereby memory is enhanced by repeatedly returning to something, thereby strengthening the memory of that topic.

Bousfield (1953) suggested that participants in a study tended to group together items that were not presented that was and found that although they could free recall the items (recall them in any order) they tended to cluster the items (remember them in groups according to category). Bower, Clark, Lesgold and Winzenz (1969) also found that info presented in a hierarchical manner can assist memory recall.

I have to leave that there, for no other reason than I'm far too lazy to carry on lol. I will complete this tommorrow!!

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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Chapter 7-Are you paying attention?


Righto folks, as promised onto the next chapter. TMA03 is signed, sealed and (hopefully) delivered so it's no rest for the wicked and onto the next chapter, continuing on from chapter 6 and further dealing with the issue of perception, particularly social cognition-how we perceive ourselves, others and issues arising in the context of the social word, how we judge people around us and how we predict their behavoiur and mediate our own.

Social psychology focus on these issues. Early soc. psychs. concentrated their attentions on people's attitudes (cognitions) towards what was going on around them in their social context and how these attitudes shaped their behaviours. Fritz Heider contributed to this field by examining people's behaviour in terms of cause and effect, seeing people as 'naive psychologists', negating their behaviours based on the cause and effect of previous behaviours and the behaviours of others. See the box on pg 60 for full details of the Heider and Simmel (1944) study. This study showed how people related shapes to human behaviour, showing how people attributed behaviours based on their own experiences and attitudes.

Social Schemas.

A 'mental structure' containing information on a particular object or category. The book used the example of skinheads, but try as I might I cannot find in my head anywhere a schema about skinheads so I will use the example of models (as in Kate Moss). If we see a girl walking down the street who's 6 foot 4 inches tall, as thin as Vlada Roslyakova and with a permanent look of disinterest etched on her bony face, I would assume that she was a model. I don't actually know anything about her, but the schema in my mind which contains 'top-down' information about models would combine with the information coming in from my senses to make this assumption. This concept of schemas goes back to Bartlett (1932). Schemas contain information from various social categories, such as type of person or social activity. You only need a little bit of information to come in via the senses that may be included in a schema, as this little bit of info will be related to the schema on the whole, which is how we come to make assumptions. Using schemas (schematic processing) is an efficient way of processing info. Different types of scema include person schema (obvious), role schema (about social roles/groups) and event schema/script (social situations). Schemas contain knowledge that is broadly generalise and people tend to 'share' schemas, or have the same kind of typical information in their schemas (ir my husband and I both have a schema for going to the cinema, and they both include vast amounts of popcorn and maltesers).


  • Filters info, saving time and valuble processing resources (see Kahneman, chapter 6)

  • Simplifys things for us so we don't have to deal explicitly with the vast amounts of info coming in.

  • can make the world more predictable.


  • Me might have the wrong info.

  • Our own biases might distort our perception of something (see Darley and Gross (1983) on page 66 for study) as we may just see what we expect to see according to our schema instead of what's really there.

  • Thinking categorically in this way might exagerate the difference within and between categories.

  • Creates stereotypes. For example, the afore mentioned model might be a neuclear physicist but I might assume that she's as dull as ditch water with a brain to match. However, that would be me being a bitch/jealous/all of the above. This overgeneralization is an 'inevitable consequence' of the theory od schemas.

Taking this theory further one could conclude that we have no choice in how we percieve the world (see cognitive miser model, pg 68). However, people do not always rely on this 'first impression' reaction created by schemas all the time-some go further, especially when motivated to do so. Ruscher et al. (2000) carried out a study outined on page 68 to examine this further and found that motivational relevance (how usefull someone was to someone else) played a part in how they were percieved by that person. This evidence questions the previous theory somewhat. Frisk and Taylor (see page 70) termed people as motivated tacticians, able to pick and choose their cognitive strategies to best fulfill their needs and goals. They also consider the issue of automation, these cognitive processes sush as using a schema to 'judge' someone without any conscious control and developed two levels-preconscious automaticity (no control) and goal-dependant automaticity (more control). Billig (1987) thought that 'social thinking' is more that just negotiating schemas, and involves internally debating different points of view (I think, I totally just made that last bit up but it sounds about right!).

Attribution theories.

Concerned with how we attribute (or assign) causes to people's behaviour, deciding how they behave in a certain way (and no, we're not talking about deciding that little Tom Thumb fell under a train because he was all fired up on alcopops and crunchy nut cornflakes).

Soc. psychs. are interested in why we attribute the cause that we do-why we assume that derek was late because he's lazy (the less vulture-minded agongst us may assume that his bus was late. Not me though). There are two categories of causes:

Internal/dispositional: Cause coming from 'within the person', ie laziness.

External/situational: Cause arising from outside the person, ie the bus was late.

These can be know as the locus (location, either internal or external) of causality.

Jones and Davis (1965) thought that we normally assume other's behaviours to have dispositional causes as that is what a constant factor (unlike the situation) and tells us more about the person.

Harold Kelley (1967) developed the covariation model, which assumes that we consider past behaviours and situations to assess causality, using three variables:

Consistency: How the 'action' (ie being late) varies in relation to both the 'actor' and the 'situation'.

Distinctiveness: How the action varies when the sitution (ie work) varies.

Consensus: Whether the action and the situation are constant if we change the actor (ie if it's just Derek who's a lazy bones or whether no one else can be bothered to turn up on time).

If we vary the outcomes of these variables we can then determine whether the cause is internal of external-see the table on the bottom of page 73 for more details on this.

Section three then goes on to describe vignettes (a description of a person/event/etc that allows the experimentor to have more control) and their use in experimental psychology. A study by McArthur (1972) is outlined on page 74 describing an experiment that test's Kelley's earlier covariation model. The feature here also mentions the plus side of using vignettes (in soc. psych. it allows more control and allows us to study something which we possibly wouldn't be able to look at outside of the lab), as well as the downside (low ecological validity).

Biases (a 'departure from rationality) are oftened encounted when we make judgements. Fundamental attribution error occurs because people have the tendancy to attribute the causes of other people's behaviour to internal causes, with actor/observer effect occuring due to people tending to attribute their own behaviour to external causes. Storms (1973) carried out an experiment (page 76) to look at this, concluding that there was evidence to support both of these biases. Other evidence used to support these biases is perceptual salience, which suggests that, because the actor is the focus of attention, it is natural for people to attribute causes to the actor as that is what they know more about, rather than the situation which they may not know much about. (Miller (1984) on page 77 outlines some cultural differences which occur relating to this area of study).

Another bias identified is self-serving bias, where people tend to attribute successful behaviour to internal causes and failures to external causes (lets be honest, we all do this right? I know I do anyway!! If I cock up I usually blame the mister, lol!). Lau and Russell (1980) conducted a qualitative study into self-serving bias using content analysis (click link for more info). Their study looked at two football teams after a game to see how both the winning team and the losing team attributed the causes of the outcome of the game by going through newspapers and getting their opinions as written in the press and coded their answers in order to quantify the results. One problem with content analysis is interpreting the data, as people may interpret things differently, which may lead to the researcher's subjective bias, but has a higher leel of ecological validity. Read this study on page 78-79 for more info on this. The study showed that the winning team tended to attribute their win to internal factors, but both winning and losing team used internal attributes more (for this theory, we would expect the losing team to assign more external causes). The researchers suggested that it was typical for sports teams (in the media especially, I would assume) to attribute the outcomes of their games more to internal factors, hence the outcome of this study.

Cognitive bias-suggests that self-serving bias occurs due to cognitive (information processing) bias, based on what we expect to happen.

Motivational bias-suggests that self-serving bias occurs due to our own needs, such as telling ourselves we failed the exam because the questions were ambigous rather than because we didn't study enough our are 'thick', hence preserving our self esteem. Shrauger (1975) found that people with high self esteem tended to make more self-serving attributions for their behaviour.

A main evaluation point for attributional theory is that it is assumed that people look for causal explanations in the same way a scientist would, whereas in reality it's not really like that. For example, I really couldn't give a stuff why Derek was late-what he does in his own time is his own business. Also, people might rely causes for their behaviour differently depending on the context-like the book says, Derek was hardly likely to tell his boss he couldn't get up because he had a raging hangover. Attribution theories need to go further to encompass more 'real life' situations.

Ok, that's as far as I've got on this chapter so far, it's half term week so both children are here all day meaning I am low on time!! I will finish this update in the next few days!!

Ok, I'm back after a marathon study session last night, during which I managed to finish chapter 7 and the commentary (Mr Candyflee and I then went on to drink too much Pinot and watch Blades of Glory, an instant classic which, although not quite on par with Anchorman, is still up there as one of the funniest films I've seen in ages).

Section 4 goes on to take about information processing when making judgements and judgemental biases, namely availability heuristic (click link for more info), which occurs when people make a judgement based on their own knowledge or info available in their own cognitive system. The book gives the example of murder and suicide rates in the USA-most people assume that murder is more prevalent than suicide because that's what we hear more of in the media (and is therefore more perceptually salient), although in fact suicide occurs more frequently (and in no way is that depressing ). Another bias discussed in the representativeness heuristic, which occurs when people tend to categorise something according to what it's most comparable with, ignoring other information such as probability. The example in the book about Kahneman and Tversky (1973) and Dick's vignette (there are a million jokes there but I shall resist) on page 83.

The book then goes on to talk about calibration, how accurate a person knows their judgements to be. If a person is calibrated properly, they will know exactly how accurate their judgements are. I did activity 7.2 and it turns out my calibration is way off, although to be fair I was doing the quiz and playing Guitar Hero at the same time. Fischhoff and Lichtenstein (1977) found that people in the West are over confident when predicting the acuracy of their own knowledge, although this may not necessarily be a bad thing-not so much an error as a survival mechanism, or a motivational tool.

Section 4.2 is about how people judge risks. Scientists and researchers use all sorts of calculations to using probability and what-not to calculate the risk of various things. But people making judgements about risks relating to everyday things do so in a completely different way. Psychologists look at people's beliefs about risks, including estmimates and possible outcomes, in order to understand why people decide to carry out an activity (ie smoking) after weighing up the risks. Many (these studies are outlined on page 88) found that peoples personal perception of risk in completely different to the educational materials etc lined up by the experts. People tend to adopt the whole 'it won't happen to me' attitude (Graham, 1987), or decide that the immediate benefits over rule the overall risk, showing that there are many other factors influencing people's decision making other that the scientific facts.

Optimistic bias occurs when people are more optimistic about risk they technically they should be. Taylor and Brown (1994) discovered that 95% of the US population had unrealistic optimism towards risks involved with various risks. Weinstein (1987) used a questionaire to fins out how people regarded their risk of getting various illnesses etc compared with other people similar to them (in age and sex etc), and found that most people thought they were less at risk then most. This may be due to lack of experience in a certain thing-if you've never encounted cancer in your life for example, you're probably going to assume that you're not going to (example of both schemas and the availability heuristic here). Motivation could also be a factor here, comparing yourself to someone more at risk then you in order to make yourself feel better, a defence mechanism to avoid anxiety. Taylor et al. (1992) found that in a sample containing gay men at risk of HIV, those with HIV were more optimistic about not getting AIDS that the men without HIV, possibly in order to make themselves feel better. However, Weinstein (1987) reported conflicting results, suggsting that the more severe a situation, the more pessimistic a person is.

More evaluation for optimistic bias includes how representative are the samples in the research of the whole population? How does this research translate cross-culturally? How can the risks involved in a hypothetically questionaire compare to risks in real life situations-perhaps people feel very differently in real life scenarios. It could also be the result of over-confidence, or an example of people trying to exert control over their lives, perhaps an example of a self-serving bias-good outcomes come from their own good behaviour and control. Perception of risk is also more optimistic when the risk is seen to have some element of human control-for example, people may be overly optimistic about not dying of a horrid illness because there are so many medicines available these days.

All of the research in the chapter thus far comes from the experimental side of things, where the research methods incorperate demand characteristics which contrain the way people can answer things. Section 5 gives a detailed description of research conducted by Joffe (1999), an interview based study on how vulnerable people from two different cultures (British and South African) were to contracting HIV/AIDS. I won't go into too much detail about the study here as it's all outlined in section 5 far better than I could manage lol. The findings showed that people generally tended to pair AIDS with the culture with which they did NOT identify with. There was a big ingroup/outgroup divide going on, and it reminded me very much of chapter one with it's social indentity theory-it seems like an age since we were all reading about that!! Anyway, participants in the study generally tended to compare the risks to the other group rather than their own, showing optimistic bias. The defence mechanism discussed earlier seems to be expanded here from the individual to the whole group. Schema theory and availablilty heuretic may also be applied here, as people's opinions may have stemmed from what they knew based on previous media coverage in their cultural circles. There is evidence also for attributional theory, with the findings here being concurrent with fundamental attribution error.

So that's chapter 7 in a nutshell. The review section and the commentary are both really good and I think really important for the TMA should you choose this chapter for TMA04, which to be honest I've got a feeling I might do. So I shall leave it there!! 'Tis valentines day today and my beloved is working lates so my plan revolves around making a sicky, sticky, saccharine-esque cake concoction in the vulgar shape of a love heart, safe in the knowledge that if he doesn't come home until really late well, all the more for me!!

Until next time!!

Candyflee xx

ps, in honour of the occasion...


Saturday, 2 February 2008

White rabbits and TMAs


I can only attempt to apologise for my absence of late. You see, I followed a white rabbit down a hole and since then I've been lost in a world of mad hatters, cheshire cats and Queen of Hearts.

Not really. In truth I've just been too busy to update the blog, fallling a wee bit behind with it all over xmas and struggling to catch up had meant that I've had to reevaluate my priorities and put this on the back burner for a while. However, I am now back on track and the majority (I think!) of the way through TMA03, so once this arduous task is finally laid to rest I will hopefully be back to date, doing entries for the remaining chapters. I really struggle without writting them as this is my only real form of note taking so I don't feel like I do as well without it!!

In the meantime I got my TMA02 back and was extremely pleased with a 80%, especially seeing as it was rushed through in a haze of post-christmas alcohol and turkey sandwiches.

Right-just thought I would make my presence known, and to let you know that all is well with me and mine!!

Until next time

Candyflee xx

ps If you ever find a bottle of suspicious looking liquid labelled 'drink me', for god's sake don't do it!!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Ho Ho Ho

Merry christmas to one and all!! Many apologies for not finishing off my previous entry, as god as my witness I will have it done by the end of this week. Christmas has been and gone, but it ain't over till the baileys and mince pies are all gone, and I've got a while until that happens!! Not really given a thought to study this past week as we've been super busy, sometimes I have to stop myself and say 'ahhh, I've got an assignment due in a few weeks'. Nothing like a TMA to bring you back to earth with a bump!! We've had an excellent christmas, including an obligatory pressie of a George Foreman grill-'tis not xmas without one. My main frivolity this yuletide season comes in the form of a new tattoo, a tiny little butterfly on the inside of my left wrist, a symbol of positive transformation in my life-and I didn't pass out while I was having it done which is of course a plus. Anyway, this week I want to finish my entry from last time so I can get experimental design into my head so I can attempt to emerge victorious with my TMA methods questions, then I have to write the TMA. I would like this done pre-new years eve so I can enjoy the festivities before having to dig out the old workout dvds in a futile bid to lose the half stone gained over christmas. Look out for my update on my last entry, and if anyone spots any glaring mistakes (I'm not 100% confident on experimental design so I'm sure there will be many), please feel free to point me in the right direction!!

Merry christmas folks!!

Candyflee xxx

The back of my head and the kids this christmas morning:


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Thursday, 20 December 2007

Correlations, SPSS and experimental design-it's as complicated as it sounds.

Howdy folks

I thought i'd pop on to do one last update before I head to Doncaster to commence the Christmas celebrations (which, as i'm sure you'll already know, will involved copious amounts of pinot AND Baileys-it is Christmas after all). This past week or so has been a whirlwind-Himself has returned from what feels like outerspace and I've had no trouble at all integrating him back into the domestic routine of housework and childcare-bless him, he's still walking around looking rather dazed. Despite our reservations the children have welcomed him back with arms open-so open in fact that they refuse to leave him alone and are constantly biding for his attention. Really consuming for him but absolutely great for me-I can have a shower without a little head bobbing round the curtain or without the contents of the wash basket being dumped at the end of the bath, causing me to jump around in panic, inevitably getting shampoo in my eyes and having to the spend the rest of the day bleary eyed as if i'm looking through fog.

Anyway-so he's back, the kids have attended all of their xmas parties, done both nativity play and carol concert and all the shopping is done, and I found some great Mr Kiplings mince pies in the coop which was buy one get one free, which leaves me time to study!! I have actually been cracking on with TMA02 and have done the majority of the methods questions and about 400 words of the essay. I hate writing essays, I feel like i'm always letting myself down-I KNOW what the answer is but I just can't get it down on paper how it sounds in my head!

This week's study includes chapter two of the research methods book, chapter one of the SPSS book, study week 10 of the workbook and Audio 4 (which I will admit to not listening to yet, I am going to take it in the car for the journey down 'south'). I found this week quite interesting actually and despite moaning I actually found I enjoyed the SPSS part, although I am confident that it's going to get a lot more complicated before the end of the course! The research methods book was fairly straight forward, and that's what i'm going to look at today....

CORRELATION: A way of 'investigating relationships between two or more variables'. Working out a correlation is a way of using quantitative data to generate general laws. the data used are often either material (ie hormones, things we can physically measure) or behavioural (pretty obvious really). Looking at information this way helps us to come to a 'cause and effect statement'-the cause of one variable of the effect on another variable. We can predict (or hypothesize) on the effect of one variable on another.

We could say, for example, if I give my three year old 2 tubes of smarties, her behaviour will become more erratic and hyperactive (than normal). We can test this theory by taking a group of 10 three year olds and giving them each smarties-the first one has one tube, the second has two and so on (there are obvious ethical considerations here and I would not recommend that you carry this out). You could then also measure the amount of household objects broken between the administration of the smarties and the time when the child passes out exhausted in a heap. The data can then be shown on a scatterplot.


Now, lets assume that our prediction was correct-the more smarties consumed, the more items broken. If you replace the label on the x-axis (the horizontal line) with amount or smarties consumed and the label on the y-axis (the vertical line) with amount of items broken-this is what our scatterplot would (in a round about way) look like. we can see that there is a relationship between the two variables by the way the pattern of dots slopes upwards.

No lets talk about correlation coefficients. This is a mathematical expression of how variables are related and range from -1 to +1. A positive correlation means that as one variable increases so to does the other one (or as one decreases, so does the other one). The fictional results of our smarties test shows a positive correlation-as one variable increases (amount of smarties) so to does the other variable (amount of items broken). On a scatterplot, this would be illustrated like on the scatterplot above, with a line sloping upwards from left to right. The correlation coefficient of a positive correlation would be a number between 0-1. 1 would be a positive correlation, and as the number gets lower the correlation is said to be less strong. A negative correlation is the opposite-as one variable increases the other variable decreases (or vice versa). On a scatterplot, the pattern would slope from top left to bottom right:


The correlation coefficient here is between 0 - -1. Likewise, the closer to -1 the number, the stronger the relationship is said to be. A coefficient of 0 means that there is no correlation.

However, coefficients can only tell us the relationship presented by the data, it does not determine that one variable is in fact the cause of the effect on the other variable-it might be down to other variables, or it might be coincidence.

The next section of the chapter looks at experiments. Generally in experiments, whether carried out in a lab or a more natural setting, the researcher attempts to manipulate a variable to see what effect this has on another variable and measures the outcome. By controlling this the researcher is irradicating anything else that may have an effect as much as possible (the difference between correlation and experiments is the control-correlations are used when the variables cannot be controlled). In order to manipulate the variables, the researcher could provide a certain list of words to be remembered, or could change the amount of smarties given. Changing one thing at a time and measuring the effect would give us a better idea of which one contributes to the effect.

I have to leave it there as we're off to buy wrapping paper! I shall be back later....

Saturday, 8 December 2007



Due to the ridiculously busy time of year we are facing, I am going to have to miss this week's study blog (chaper 5). The the arrival of Himself fast approaching (wednesday!) I want to crack on with the research methods chapter so I can get it out of the way and I can spend a few days without cracking a book open, the blog entries take me a good couple of hours to sort out which I can not spare right now. Not to mention the amount of pressies I have to wrap!!

However, I shall be back to do it during the consolidation week after xmas, after all it is an exam chapter and the whole point of the week is to consolidate lol. I shall definitely do an enrty for these weeks work though as its essential for the TMA.

If, however, this does not get done pre-xmas I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone a very merry xmas-I hope you've all been good boys and girls and santa brings you everything you asked for!! I think the elf jury is still out regarding my own present worthiness!!

Until next time!

Candy flee xx

ps am delighted to announce that I passed DD100 with 83-over the moon!!

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Warning-TMA results enclosed


My assignment results arrived back today. I saw the envelope lying on the mat and I can tell you, the action potentials were going crazy and my hands were shaking when I was trying to open the envelope-is that a bit weird??

Anyway I got-drum roll please-89%. Completely chuffed and a little surprised! I got 88 for the essay (which converts to 59/67) and 30/33 for the ethics questions, meaning 89% overall. And I got 5/5 for the elusive scenario three question, to which I answered respect so was fully expected 0/5 and having to appeal lol.

So there we have it-wait over. Not entirely sure what I'm going to do with myself now as the last few weeks seem to have been occupied with etma checking every half an hour, along with nearly biting the poor postman's hand off when he turns up-he must think we have a huge rabid dog living with us. He wouldn't be far wrong.

Until next time!

Candyflee xx

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Bio"logical". Or not.

Howdy folks.

Well here we are, study week 8 already. And still no sign on my TMA01 back!! According to my tutor she can't get the etma system to work so she has to post them, which is cool but might take ages as I think they have to go via Milton Keynes to get checked. So I might still be in for a long wait!! I did try to glean my results from her but she couldn't tell me, just saying that 'no-one did really badly', which to me reads, 'no-one did well', lol.

This week's study has been based on chapter 4: 'Biological processes and psychological explanation'. I really thought I would despise this chapter but in truth, I absolutely loved it lol... I think I may possibly be slightly weird. I loved the scientificy bits that just 'are' as opposed to the endless reams of opaque information contained within modern psychology, theory that might possibly being this, or that, but someone else thinks differently from a different perspective blah blah blah. Just nice and simple, 'this is a cell, it's called this and it does that'.

However, there's a lot of info to try and condense this week so i'm just going to skip around the main points. I'm definitely going to do this option for TMA02 part 1 (if I ever get TMA01 back). I'm half tempted to write that part of the assignment now while it's all still fresh in my mind but i'm kidding myself if I think that's going to happen! I loath writing TMA's and so I'm never going to be able to bring myself to do one if I haven't got to-I'll wait until the last minute, I work better under the pressure of the deadline!

Right then...

The chapter talks about reductionism, and how some believe that some phenomenon can be explained by reducing it down to its most basic explanation-in this case, biology. Reductionists think that all psychological behaviour occur only due to biology and the brain. However, the book generally refutes this theory, stating that biology and the environment cannot be made into a dichotomy (that word again!), and that the two are very inter-related, that biology has an effect on the environment (via psychological behaviour), and how environment has an effect on biology. Psychological processes such as cognition, consciousness etc are all emergent properties, products of the components of the brain that don't resemble the original components (I have no idea if I've explained that right but I know what I mean!). Previously it was believed (by Descartes for example) that the brain and mind were two separate entities (dualism), however this is no longer thought to be the case.

Now here comes the science bit (i've come over all loreal lol):

Cells: 'Building block' of an organism, cells have similar properties but many have different functions. Each cell contains 46 chromosomes, which house the genetic material (genes) that pass on information, with the exception of the reproductive cells (gametes, or sperm and egg) which contain 23 chromosomes. Obviously, when two gametes meet they create one cell (zygote) with 46 chromosomes which then divides over and over again until a brand new person is formed (replication).

Genes: Genes influence the body (in terms of hair colour etc) and biology and are contained in every cell. All of the genes within each cell is known as the genotype, which determines the development of an individual. The process of differentiation occurs, where cells start to form in order to serve different functions. However, the environment also plays a part in the developmental process, as talked about above. The product (or 'physical structure') of a person's genotype mixed with the environment are known as the phenotype.

Neurons: A cell which is concerned with communication and makes up part of the nervous system (which handles and processes information). They have two components: the cell body and the process, which is like an extension. Groups of neurons form neural systems which form different roles. Neurons can be found predominantly in the brain but also in the spinal cord, and these two components form the central nervous system. Neurons that are not in the cns make up the peripheral nervous system. Some of the neurons in the pns are known as detectors, and are sensitive to issues such as touch. When these (sensory) neurons are stimulated an electo-chemical reaction occurs. This electrical change is known as an action potential, which travels quickly to convey the information to the cns. The action potential also travels to the motor neurons, which convey messages to muscles, and this leads to action of the muscles (ie moving to get away from pain etc).
These messages travel from neuron to neuron via the synapse (or 'junction') between each cell. The messages are transmitted via neurotransmitters (a chemical) from one neuron (pre synaptic), across the synapse and into receptors in the next neuron (post synaptic). Sometimes this can cause an effect of excitation within the post synaptic neuron, whereby these neurons are likely to exhibit action potentials-or in can cause an effect of inhibition, which has the opposite effect to excitation. Mood and behavioural problems can occur at the synapse. Parkinson's disease for example occurs when certain neurotransmitters are not produced, effecting motor control. Reuptake also occurs, where neurons retake the neurotransmitters they give out rather than them being passed onto the receptors in the next cell. There are several kinds of neurotransmitters that are thought to effect behaviour-for example, schizophrenia is thought to be due in part to abnormalities within certain neurotransmitters. Depression can also be attributed to abnormalities in the dopaminergic, serotonergic and noradrenergic neurotransmitters. This is a good link.

Hormones: Chemicals within the body, with certain ones that effect the nervous system, and therefore mood and behaviour. They are secreted into the blood and get transported around the body, with it's effects occuring at a different site to the one it is originally secreted from. They are released from a gland (for example, the adrenal gland which produces adrenalin and noradrenalin and is located near the kidney and is part of the ans) and travel through the blood and are occupied by receptors at its target organ. Dopamine, serotonin, adrenalin, testosterone etc are all hormones. We all know hormones have an effect on mood-anyone who has been pregnant/knows someone who has been pregnant will know all about the disasterous effect hormones can have on someone who dares to say, 'oh, you're putting weight on, the baby can't be that big'. Believe me, I have issued many an ass kicking over this statement in my time. Blame it on the hormones!

The Nervous System: The brain is a huge part of the nervous system. It can be divided into two parts-or hemispheres. The outer layer of the brain is know as the cerebral cortex, and it can be divided into different lobes such as temporal and frontal. The two hemispheres of the brain are connected and communicate via the corpus callosum, which is made of up a bunch of neuron processes. There has been research into the effect of changes within the brain on behaviour. Brain damage, ie strokes (also called lesions), can cause neurons to die, which suggests that the damage done in these areas of the brain effect that areas functions. There is lots of eval on this on page 269. Brain imaging is a non-invasive technology which allows us to look at the brain and the blood flow within it to determine which areas of the brain are working when certain behaviours are carried out (there are also invasive experiments that can be carried out but these have obvious ethical concerns-please don't get me started on ethics!).
There are two different sections of the nervous system: Somatic nervous system which controls skeletal muscles and behaviour displayed outwardly, voluntary conscious behaviour. The neurons in the motor cortex, part of the brain that deals with motor control, communicate as we have seen with the spinal cord and travels down to the motor neurons in the muscles and controls them, causing a reflex reaction. Then there is the autonomic nervous system, which controls the internal workings via two types of muscle; cardiac muscle (heart) and smooth muscle (which can be found in the walls of blood vessels or example). (Remember back to the excite and inhibit reactions we discussed earlier-these can occur in the heart, for example when we are scared the neurons can get into a state of excitement, or when we are meditating they can get inhibited).

Homeostasis: The body's way of remaining constant-neurons can only work under optimal conditions (ie temperature) and the body exerts control in order to regulate the body and staying at an optimum-sweating for example, keeps people cool. The practise of eating and drinking (behaviour) is controlled by biological factors-our motivation to eat is to survive. Obvious links with evolution here-YAWN!

There was more in the chapter about the visual system but I really can't be bothered to go into it as I think I've already covered the basics here. Onto chapter 5!! I'm not sure how I'm going to fit that in this week, it's my eldest daughter's third birthday this week, as well as my fourth wedding anniversary (although I am still currently sans husband), it's said daughters xmas play at nursery coming up and she keeps pestering me to put the Christmas tree up. Also, I need to learn how to make mince-pies. I have a feeling that biological processes are a doddle in comparison to this-any tips gratefully received!!

Until next time!

Candyflee xx

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Learning how learning is learnt-study week 7

Howdy people.

What a week it's been!! For some misdemeanor that I may or may not have committed during the progression of my youth, the higher powers decided to inflict the vilest form of gastroenteritis upon both me and my offspring meaning that this weeks study efforts have been strained. However, I somehow managed between bouts of nausea and general fatigue to finish off this weeks study although to be honest I didn't do as thorough a job as usual as this chapter (chapter 3) is an exam chapter and so I will have to go back over it in more detail when the time comes to get stuck into revision. I'm really hoping that it will make more sense to my delicate brain!

And I've only just got over the flu-I must have cocked up big time somewhere!

Anyway-this week was all about learning. As well as all of chapter 3 and the commentary, study week 7 of the workbook had to be completed as part of the core study, with DVD 1 (observation) and the 'Learning Language' clip from the DVD-ROM making up the optional study component.

The chapter concentrated on three perspectives of learning: The comparative approach (or behaviourism), the cognitive perspective and the socialcultural perspective. I shall tackle each one separately, but again i've only briefly skimmed this chapter and as yet haven't made any notes so there may well be huge holes in my knowledge (well, more so than usual!).

Learning: Acquiring new knowledge or skills.
Like evolution, learning allows individuals to adapt in order to cope better with their environment, although this occurs over the lifespan of the individual rather than over the millions of years lifespan of evolution. The different perspectives have different theories which may lead to different questions and ultimately research and methodology. But this does not mean that one is ultimately right and the rest wrong, but that there may be many different types of learning and they perspectives just provide differing insights.

Comparative Approach.

Studying non-human animals and extrapolating the findings to other species-ie humans. Linked to behaviourism, most closely related to John Watson (click name for Wiki link!). Advocates of behaviourism believe that psychology should be a scientific study of behaviour, without making inferences into mental processes as these cannot be scientifically proven. Watson also believed that too much emphasis was placed on innate behaviour and not on the effect of our environments on our behaviour.

Classical conditioning.

Experiment designed by Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936).

  1. Dog is given food (unconditional stimulus, UCS) and as a reflex salivates (unconditional response, UCR).
  2. A contingency is formed between the UCS and a neutral stimulus (NS), in this case a bell by delivering both at the same time.
  3. In time, the dog salivates when the NS is present, even when there is no UCS. The NS now becomes the CS (conditional stimulus) and the reflex evoked by the CS is known as the CR (conditional response).

And this is the bare bones (geddit? dogs, bones? Never mind) of the process known as classical conditioning!

Now our friend Mr Watson liked this approach-the data was measurable and quantifiable and could be wrapped up nicely with a little bow, with no need for second guessing what the dog was thinking. He applied this study to humans, in the case of poor little Albert who Watson conditioned to be petrified of rats-I won't even go into the ethical implications for this!!

These days, people believe that there is more than one type of change going on during the process of conditioning. For example, could the dog not only be mindlessly and unconsciously drooling at the sound of a bell, or could he actively be thinking 'wicked, it's dinner time now', forming an expectancy? Hirsch, 1974; Mishkin et al, 1984; and Toates, 1998 all believed this to be the case.

Operant (instrumental) conditioning.

Where the behaviour of the participant (ie rat) is instrumental to the outcome of the conditioning. Burrhus Frederick Skinner devised the skinner box

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A rat is placed in the skinner box and when he presses the lever he is rewarded with a pellet of food. When the frequency of the lever pressing behaviour (or the operant behaviour) increases, the food is positive reinforcement for that behaviour (in other words, it makes the rat more likely to push the lever!). This is also known by behaviourists as the Law of effect, which states that a response which results something favourable (ie, food) will be learned. Also included in instrumental conditioning is negative reinforcement, whereby something negative is prevented by the behaviour-for example, a harsh noise being switched off when the lever is pressed, and also punishment, in the case of the rat we could say that the harsh noise occurred only when the rat pressed the level-this would make the rat less likely to press it. During operant conditioning it is also possible for animals to display discrimination by emitting the operant behaviour in the presence of one stimulus (ie a green light) but not in the presence of another stimulus (ie a red light). Operant conditioning has been used to various ways, including behaviour modification (via positive reinforcement). Skinner, however, was also very adamant that punishment should not be used in this way as it is unethical and ineffective.

Many people believe that it is inaccurate to report human behaviour as merely a consequence of responses controlled by the environment, with no consideration of any other processes of thought which may be occurring. Tolman (1932) created on alternative study whereby a rat was placed in a simple maze with one possible route, the food being placed in goal box which was to the right. The rat was then placed in another map with several different routes, with the straight on route blocked. It was suggested that, without any internal inferences, the rat would just try to go straight on to get to the food as he had done in the first instance. However, the rat would often go through a route that was towards the right, suggesting that the rat was learning to get the food via 'something in the head' as well as just stimuli responses. Goldman et al (1973) also suggested that the animals formed an expectancy for food, as they measured the stress levels of the rats when they did not receive the response that they usually received for their actions (ie no food or less food than normal. The same thing happens to me when I expect there to be chocolate in the fridge and I get there to realise that i've already eaten it. My stress levels go through the roof).

Cognitive Perspective

  • Compared to computers due to similar processing of information-received via senses and processed and used to guide behaviours.
  • Can describe what occurs in the mind at both a functional (what the mind does) and a process (how the mind does is) level with no need to explain the physical workings of the brain.
  • Brain scanning and imaging is increasing being used in cognitive psychology.

Category learning.

Learning that occurs when people are able to categorise entities. Categories enable us to make sense of the world around us, to make plans and predictions.

Bruner et al (1956): Emphasized the importance of hypothesis testing in category learning. Bruner devised a study whereby participants were shown a variety of cards (see pg 192) and were shown one card in particular. They were then asked to pick all the other cards in the same category. The participants developed hypotheses to try to find the right category (ie all cards in this category have three borders) and when each hypothesis was disproved they moved onto another until they found the correct one (known as successive scanning, sort of like a trial and error). However, this method of hypothesis testing was slow and difficult as, although one property may be correct on the card (ie three crosses) it does not mean that the hypothesis was correct. A more successful method is conservative focusing which involves eliminating whole classes of hypotheses by choosing a card which only differed from the previous choice in one way-ie the example in the book states that if the original card had three clear crosses and a single border, and next card chosen may contain three clear crosses and a triple border. If the researcher said that this new card is not in the same category, then all cards with three borders can be discounted. People using conservative focusing learned categories more quickly than those who used successive scanning.

In this study, Bruner used artificial stimuli which had little or prior associations, so that participants' previous knowledge would not interfere with the study. However, the study therefore lacks ecological validity as it does not explain category learning in a more natural setting-natural categories, whose attributes are all linked together for a specific reason and these links and any prior knowledge we have may affect the way we learn categories. Murphy and Allopenna (1994) devised a study whereby participants has to learn categories where each member of the category had lots of attributes in common so could all be linked to the same theme. They found that people did learn categories where the members had lots of attributes in common much quicker due to their prior knowledge.

Jerry Fodor and Noam Chomsky, philosopher and linguist respectively, believed that categories simply cannot be learned because this knowledge is innate (nativism) as opposed to being learned through the senses like Bruner believed (empiricism). They believed that this knowledge most be innate due to the induction problem-basically, although we may think we know something based on our past experience, we have no way of knowing what's going to happen in the future-something may well come along and blow everything that we think we know out of the water, therefore we can not guarantee that the hypotheses that we generate are correct. Any evidence created by empirical studies may later be shown to be wrong. Obviously, many think that this position is extremely far fetched and just plain wrong. One way to balance this situation is to suggest that the type of learning suggested by people in both the nativist and empiricism camp are different-the former suggesting that things are not learned but merely recalled, with no fundamental change to conceptual abilities, and the latter suggesting that there is a complex process going on in the head, involving information processing and changes in behaviour.

Sociocultural perspective

Looks at how our mental processes are influenced and effected by our cultural settings. Suggests that learning involves the use of tools that exist in interpersonal relationships and therefore are embedded in our culture. For example, the use of computers or language that we have available to use are dependant on our cultural setting and affects our learning capabilities. Remember the pen guy from a few weeks back? Yeah, the pen is another tool. Lol.

Saljo (1999) - Tools not only mean physical tools and technologies but also psychological tools such as language. Learning is mediated, or indirect, buffered by the tools that we have at our disposal, and how we 'take up' or appropriate these tools also play a part in how we learn.

The distribution of power within cultures also plays a part-ie access to computers in schools is decided by the powers that be who rule the purse strings and decide how many computers to have etc. Also, the classroom environment in which the children learn also affects learning. See Keogh et all (2000) on pg 205 for an example. Studying learning in this way enables psychologists to help learners to make the most of their skills and surroundings.

Social interactions play a large part in the human experience and, again, language is an important tool in learning, and studies have been conducted to find out which types of interactions are central to learning. These studies can be done in various ways-recording interactions and coding the dialogue and analysing it quantitatively, or analysing it's meaning for themes etc qualitatively (see Mercer pg 207). Language and its meaning is constructed through its origins and the culture in which it is created. For psychologists, how we use language is as important as what the language means.

Enculturation-when people adopt the relevant language in accordance with their cultural context-for example schools and universities may have their own systems and jargon which, in turn, affects how students within these institutions learn. The Jackson quote on page 211 is a good example of this. This is why some children may fail in school-they cannot make sense of the environment and the cultural norms encapsulated within it.

Ok-that's taken me ages and now i'm going cross-eyed lol! Note to self: Read the next chapter properly!! I'm registered to start SD226 in feb but to be honest i'm seriously considering cancelling it because I can't see myself being able to devote enough time to each course to be able to get a decent grade. I think i'm going to stick doing 60 points at a time until my youngest starts preschool, otherwise I simply don't have the time. But at the same time I really want to do it and get it out the way. Decisions decisions!

Until next time!!

Candyflee xxx