Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

‘Cyberchondria’? – Formulating a research question and locating literature   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Psychology

The broad interest for my interdisciplinary review is the use of health websites, and their effect on the individual.

Coming from a Sociological background, my overarching interest in this particular area is on how relationships are altered between doctors and patients due to the use of online health ‘facilities’; however, I have chosen to follow a more psychological route with this piece of work – namely, the effect of health websites on the individual, and whether this leads to what has popularly been termed ‘cyberchondria’. Furthermore, I will be locating literature from health sciences that I hope will complement not only the psychological findings, but which may also tie in with the literature from sociology that I have already read.

In order to do this, I first located readings that specifically referred to health anxieties and the web, which gave a few relevant readings, and the next step will be to follow this up with looking for introductory readings for psychology.

The second subject from Health Sciences is still provisional, and currently I do not know if I am going to persist with this. Some of the literature I have read has a slant towards Media Studies and other communicative media which seem highly interesting.

So many decisions, and currently feeling overwhelmed!

Written by rn5g08 on October 25th, 2011

The Pit and the Pendulum of extended and over-elaborate metaphor   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Economics,Psychology,Sociology

Mors ubi dira fuit vita salusque patent.

So, to expand the first blog post a little: what I think is nagging at me is this sense of a range of ‘objects,’ of pieces of ‘knowledge-meat’, or ‘currency’, that are consumed or traded within their own disciplines. Sometimes these objects of knowledge have the same names in other subjects, but they mean different things. And across disciplines the means of making them edible, civilized, tradable can be hugely different. Traditionally these bits of ontologies, of data (they are sometimes data) are going to somehow be examined, discussed, prodded, perhaps measured: quantified or qualified in some sense. In the past this might have been described on paper. These days, some of us (perhaps not that many, globally) have the web as a means of mediating discovery and knowledge acquisition. There are many things that can be done with knowledge on the web: it can be hidden, it can be spread, it can be created, it can be pushed around. If tiny bits of data somehow fit with the tiny little pieces of the structure of the web, then one might suppose that a sort of true picture emerges. However, again, something that has nagged at me is how so much of our thinking is analogical, or metaphorical. So that true pictures are actually very hard to locate using reductionist mapping – see Wicked Problems, for example.

What I think might be part of one of the questions I want to pursue, is to do with how the web might change the analogies that are implicit or embedded within disciplines. Sometimes the process of collaboration can bring out these assumptions. Sometimes, collaboration is hugely impeded by them.

For example, one of our widely used assumptions or analogies that fascinates me, is that which describes electricity. Electricity has long been portrayed as a commodity. Walter Patterson (a physicist by trade) has written at length on this subject, in a book called, ‘Keeping the Lights On.’ The traditional picture of electricity is of something that ‘flows’ like water, and can be cut off, traded, conserved, or wasted. Entire forests have been destroyed in the pursuit of the subject of electricity and our consumption of it. Generations of schoolchildren have suffered sleepless nights, worrying (somewhat misguidedly) about global warming’s fatal pendulum hanging over the Polar Bear every time they put their heating on (along with the location of the calorie  – another rather elusive and misleading concept.)

Patterson says, “How many times have you heard or read some energy specialist refer to ‘energy production’ or ‘energy consumption’? These people are supposed to be experts. Surely they ought to know one unbreakable law, the First Law of Thermodynamics, the law of conservation of energy. No one produces energy. No one consumes energy. The amount of energy in the whole universe remains the same.”

He then goes on to describes a host of assumptions that arise incorrectly out of our making electricity a commodity to be traded, the most simple being that arising from the regulators who are allegedly looking for the best deal for the household market – a low unit price does not equal a low bill – the holy grail for the ‘consumers.’ To me, having worked with the UK’s largest energy company and, in particular, with their hard and soft data, it’s clear on a fairly elementary level that describing our relationship with electricity like this is going to cause anxiety for the ‘consumer’. It describes a selfish market. It’s all about measuring how much we use, and not the quality of our relationship with it. Too much = red, not very much = green. It’s almost a little bit childish. Imagine designing an app to somehow map our relationship with energy. It would have reds and greens, wouldn’t it?  It would be about ‘a lot’ (scolding) or ‘a little’ (caressing tone of voice- well done.) It would be great to break from this model and look at different ways of being technical about how we are with energy.

Even as I’m doing my preliminary, slightly distracted, coffee-table pre-reading, this strikes a chord with me. A book I picked up a couple  of weeks ago, written by Stephen Landsburg is called, ‘The Armchair Economist.’ (In the manner of many inhabitants of armchairs he keeps disappearing just when I want him. I’m also wondering if The Spy in the Coffee Machine can see him from the kitchen, and if so, whether they should talk. Never mind.)

The first chapter of this book starts boldly with, “Most of economics can be measured in four words: ‘People respond to incentives.’ The rest is commentary.” He then goes on to describe, or perhaps, hypothesise, how making cars more safe kills more people, as people drive more safely in more dangerous cars. Landsburg continues by saying that economics begins with the assumption that all human behaviour is rational. I’m presuming that part of the rest of the book is to decry this notion triumphantly. It is very fashionable nowadays (and seems to cause great joy for the evolutionary psychologists) to show how entirely irrational we are; however I can’t help feeling that there is sometimes a confusion in the literature between say a system of perception, or of governance that overcorrects, and the net result that that has for the movement and/or survival of its owner. (I know, feeling something isn’t really academic: it’s another question to explore.)

So, now I have economics and markets intruding a little into my original speculation about how the concepts or metaphors embedded in disciplines might be creating pictures that aren’t entirely correct. It’s certainly the case that while markets have their own language, they also trade in the languages used by the disciplines that come together to create the products or objects on sale. And now, for some of us, the sorts of things that can be traded, over the net for example, are elusive objects, which it might be worth while trying to pin down a little further. I’m worrying that some of this sounds as though I’m just talking semantics. I do intend to explore this further and show how it’s not just trivial misunderstandings, but deep ones that maybe re-cast our notion of the world to some extent.

As far as a methodology goes, my approach to research is often about contingency. Particularly interdisciplinary research. I don’t believe that using a wholly empirical, top-down filtering method is always going to work, as this assumes that there is an explicit pool of knowledge out there to be refined. My very subject matter says that this might not be the case. So, although I intend to use the traditional method, and my next step is to get my text books on economics and psychology/ sociology, and to read and annotate findings from them, I will  also read a lot of not-quite academic, coffee-table stuff that gives me a feel for whether I would be happy to say, sit and have lunch with the people who are writing. And, more immediately, I’m suffering from a nagging sense of not having figured out what the correct referencing procedure for blogging is. I’m used to using hyperlinks and checking they’re still live every now and then. Suspect I might need proper references.

I also haven’t yet drawn out my reasons for an interest in psychology, but, quickly, this is because I think that in the pursuit of truth (which should arise somewhere when looking at how subjects are affected by the web), it is is probably going to be interesting to look at what drives people to co-operate and trust each other when working together within specific subject areas that use specific ontologies that might or might not be affected by the emergence of the WWW.

I am now releasing these thoughts into the wild, where they can roam about in a  sort of purgatory of waiting for approval.

Written by me1g11 on October 25th, 2011

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Self and business in social networks   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Economics,Psychology,Sociology

I was considering the two topics – social networks and consciousness from the perspective of Psychology and Marketing. But as I found later the more appropriate fields would be Sociology and Social Marketing.

After the class on Wednesday, one nice colleague boroughed me the book Social Psychology by Brehm, Kassin, Fein with the suggestion that I could also look into Sociology. As I was reading through this book and thinking about the topics, I came across the The Self-Concept which is just another term for self-consciousness. We can describe self-consciousness by looking at the main methods through it is achieved:

  1. introspection = looking inward at one’s thoughts and feelings
  2. perceptions of our own behavior = analyzing your own behaviour you can find out how you react in certain situations
  3. influences of other people = identifying yourself through comparison with others
  4. cultural perspectives – depending on the origin of the individual he might be an individualist (its values are independence, autonomy, self-reliance) or a collectivist (its values are interdependence, cooperation and social harmony)

So point 3. states that self-consciousness is influenced by others. In the Royal Society presentation called Understanding social and information networks given by Professor Jon Kleinberg: the speaker shows the probability of joining a group based on the number of friends already joined:

The web is now a social phenomenon, it isn’t just a place to access and share information, it is a world of its own where people interact, live and change. This is an unprecedented phenomenon in human history.

And as the world changes, the way of doing business also shifts from the traditional marketing techniques to a more valuable, customized approach. A suitable quote from Socialnomics by Erik Qualman would be the following:

Marketer’s Philosophy Yesterday

  • It’s all about the sex and sizzle of the message and brand imagery
  • It’s all about the message; good marketers can sell anything
  • We know what is right for the customer – we are doing the customer a service because they really don’t know what they want

Marketer’s Philosophy Today

  • It’s important to listen and respond to customer needs
  • It’s all about the product; it’s necessary to in constant communication with all the other departments
  • We never know what is exactly right for the customer; that is why we are constantly asking and making adjustments

The topics that I touched in this post (and will in the next ones) were the self-concept and how it relates to the social-self, new ways of doing marketing taking into account this new type of individual. Until the next post, I will

  • have a look into Sociology to understand the driving forces of social networks
  • read more from the book Socialnomics because it describes how social media transforms the way we live and do business (this is actually the book subtitle)
  • look into more social marketing books to find out the methods of doing business in this brave new world

Written by ad4g11 on October 25th, 2011

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What is cognitive psychology and the general approaches to the study of human cognition   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Psychology

Scope of cognitive psychology

cognitive psychology is generally understood to be a part of psychology, but specialises in studying the internal mental process of perception, memory, and decision-making. In the book “principles of cognitive psychology”, it is described as:

“a study of the main internal psychological processes that are involved in making sense of the environment and deciding what action might be appropriate”.

Challenges of studying cognitive psychology

cognitive psychology is a difficult subject to study, not because it is intellectually challenging, but the subject of study is invisible to human eyes. In addition, the processes involved within our brain are not always clear.

For example, there was a time when it was believed that thinking process works in a sequential manner. In other words, it was believed that we process information one at a time and those processes never happen in parallel. This idea however cannot explain how human can multitask. This has now been replaced with the theory of parallel processing.

Similarly, it was believed that stimulus always generate a response. According to this theory, a piece of reading material can be a form of stimulus, which in turn triggers some response or action that can be measured. This conceptual framework is called top-down processing. However, many experiments have been designed and shown and that people miss read statements because of the brain is not reacting purely and simply to the stimulus. To the contrary, we have our own perception and expectation, which may interfere with the way we process the stimulus information. We were given an example of a statement which says, “Paris in the the spring”. It has been shown through similar experiments with the repeatable results and observations that many people read the statement as, “Paris in the spring”. The fact that the word of “the” is repeated is often missed out. This is an example of bottom-up processing of the brain. In other words, the brain is not just reacting to the stimulus as an independent trigger of response, but perception and expectation has a role to play as well.

Overall, there is a strong message in these introductory chapters that the main challenge in cognitive psychology is to identify the exact process used by the brain. In engineering terms, one can describe the situation as a study of a black box, where inputs and outputs can be controlled measured but opening up the blackbox is prohibited. Or perhaps in mathematical terms, one can describe the situation as a study of a function box, where again the inputs and outputs can be measured but the precise mathematical function of the box is not known. In both analogies, we can see multiple possibilities and theories can be developed for any given set of inputs and outputs. Therefore, we can never be sure that the proposed process represents the way the brain functions. At best, we arrive at a conceptual model that helps our understanding.

Four main research methods in cognitive psychology

Given that we’re studying the blackbox that we may not open, the next logical question is how does one study it? It would appear in the area of cognitive psychology, there are four main ways of studying cognition: A) by experiment, B) by comparing brain-damaged patients, C) by developing computational models, and D) by brain scans.


out of all the methods, the experimental methods is the easiest to understand. There are usually conducted in a controlled environment, which lends itself to scientific studies of data. However this type of approaches are commonly challenged for two reasons: A) as explained before, these can only provide indirect evidence about the internal processes involved, and B) given the context of a controlled environment, which is highly artificial, it is often difficult to justify or believe that the subjects will behave in an identical manner in real life.


the comparison method is an interesting one. Essentially, cognitive psychologists look for brain-damaged patients and compare what they can or cannot do with other patients. For example, if they have patients who can speak very well but cannot hear, they can then conclude that the processes involved in speaking are independent of those for hearing. This method is most conclusive when patients with opposite skills matrix occur. For instance, if a group of patients can do task A very well but not task B, and another group of patients can do task B very well but not task A, we can then conclude with confidence that the processes involved in task A or B are totally independent of each other.

This method has its own limitations though. For example, where patients can perform part of the task, can we still make a conclusion? Also, this issue is that there is only one or two of the brain that contributes to a certain function. However, more often than not, unless the task is exceptionally simple, different functions of the brain will be invoked. Take matching shapes as an example. Young children are often given toys which required them to recognise different shapes. This is a very simple task in its own right. However, it involves long-term memory (remembering the instruction given), short-term memory (what their eyes have just seen), decision-making, and motor skills. It is often very difficult to isolate these processes as totally independent of each other.

computational models

computational models are closely akin to a branch of computer science called artificial intelligence. Feeding by the information gathered through previous methods, programmers builds computational models to represent cognitive processes. Although cannot guarantee to be representative of the exact cognitive process involved, it does allow a systematic way of investigating the processes. Usually, the programmers involved use what is known as the connection networks, where there are input links, processing units, and output links. Unlike computer networks where there is specific location for memories, connection networks in psychology have memories distributed over the network.

brain scans

finally, the last approach makes use of a modern technology in brain scanning to establish where and when cognitive processes happen within the brain. This method of study has been very useful in areas where processors function in discreet ways. However, it has been less successful in higher order cognitive functions such as reasoning and decision-making or where cognitive functions and processes do overlap.


it has been very interesting to read through the introductory chapters of my first book in cognitive psychology. I have found the definition and scope of cognitive psychology very helpful and the chapters discussing the four major approaches informative. I was very surprised to see how brain-damaged patients can help in research. And of course technological advances has made it possible to probe into the blackbox itself.

Moving On

This book then continues to discuss cognitive psychology in four main study areas: A) three chapters on recognition and perception, B) two chapters on memory management, C) two chapters on language comprehension and production, and D) three chapters on problem solving and decision making. I will be updating my blog as I read and reflect on the material as I consider these areas one at a time.

Written by Mandy Lo on October 25th, 2011

Research Question and Chosen Disciplines   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Economics,Psychology

My research question is: How has the Web affected the rise and fall of small bands/independent musicians?

Two disciplines: Economics and Sociology

The Web has a large influence on the popularity and reach of music, this is true now more than in previous decades. In terms of Economics I will be exploring how the Web has improved the access to consumers and how this has affected small bands. In terms of Sociology, the Web is not just useful for providing products to a large group of people, it is also used to build social networks which may have an impact on small bands.

The reason behind choosing these two disciplines is that money and society are two large factors in how much an independent musician can ‘achieve’. Using Economics, I will explore how social networks interact with the current economic models for pricing and making profit for the bands. Using Sociology, I will examine the idea that social networks allow larger connection of music fans to each other and to the bands that they are fans of. I will also explore how social networking impacts on the bands’ popularity and reach.

In order to start researching these topics I have visited the library and borrowed introductory textbooks on both Economics and Sociology.

Written by Gemma Fitzsimmons on October 25th, 2011

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Cognitive psychology or artificial intelligence?   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Psychology


Having started out as a right is what it is like to do is to I got my god what is it about a bit of a and studied the second section of the book “principles of cognitive psychology” under the heading of “perception and recognition”, I am beginning to wonder how much of cognitive psychology overlaps with the study of artificial intelligence. In this blog, I am going to give a summary or an overview of what I have read and understood so far, and then compare it with my personal experience in working with electronics and artificial intelligence. I will therefore divide this blog up into two parts: A) perception and recognition in psychology, and B) image processing and identification in electronics and artificial intelligence. As with previous blogs, this article will conclude with a short reflective paragraph together with plans on future reading.

Part one: perception and recognition in psychology

To begin with, the book describes how the pathways of light starts from the object entering into the eyes and finally reaching the cortex in the brain. This part of the discussion is no different to what we learn at secondary school in physics and biology. The book then moves on to discuss the various visually related phenomen such as: simultaneous contrast, dark adaptation, colour processing, motion processing, visual illusions, pattern recognition and object recognition. For each of these phenomena, there is a summary of proposed the theories along with their supporting evidence. However, as noted in previous blog, these theories are not definitive as we shall see in this blog.

Simultaneous contrast

Simultaneous contrast refers to situations where a certain colour looks darker or lighter depending on the colours of the background. It was suggested that our eyes and brain are more sensitive to the relative difference of illumination than the actual colour itself. This theory has been used to explain how a person can be colour blind and yet able to perceive visually.

Dark adaptation

Dark adaptation is where visibility increases in the dark over a period of time. Unsurprisingly, the enlargement of the pupils was discussed in the book. Although a wide range of experiments proving the existence of dark adaptation are described in the book, there are no further explanation offered. At this stage, I began to question whether I am reading physics and biology or psychology. Nonetheless, just for the sake of amusing myself and out of the determination to find something new, I continued reading.

Colour processing

Colour processing as its name implies is concerned with our ability to distinguish different colours. The book is in the dangling out of the brain scans will use together to study this topic. It has been noted that certain area of the brain known as V4 had an increase of 13% of blood flow when a coloured stimulator is presented. This increase of blood flow in the area is considered as evidence of brain activity in order to process information triggered by the stimulator.

Motion processing

Motion processing is to do with identifying moving objects. I was surprised to find that different parts of our brain are responsible for seeing stationary objects and moving objects. There is an area of the brain commonly known by the profession as V5, which is responsible for identifying all moving objects. Again, brain scans and monitoring of blood flow were used to identify the area. Interestingly, patients with brain damage in area V5 cannot see moving objects. In other words, stationary objects can be seen normally, just like everyone else. However, as soon as the objects begin to move they become invisible. Some patients have reported difficulty in pouring tea or coffee into a cup, because the fluid appeared to be frozen. They cannot gauge when to stop pouring, because they simply cannot see the fluid. In order to gauge accurately, they have to guess when to stop pouring, stop, wait, and look inside the cup when there is no movement. Then, and only then, can they decide accurately whether they need to stop pouring tea or coffee.

Visual illusions

The book then moves on to discuss how visual illusions work. Again, many theories were proposed, but none are definitive. For instance, the Ponzo illusion was explained by three-dimensional vision. In this theory, it is suggested that our brain automatically interprets two-dimensional images as a representative of the three-dimensional objects. In the case of this illusion, the lines that represent a train track gives the illusion that object A is further away from us then object B.  One therefore assume that if both objects are of the same size, the one further away from us would be smaller when presented in two-dimensional format. Since this picture shows that both objects are about the same size on a two-dimensional plane, one would assume that object  A (the one further away) is actually bigger. Of course, this will not be the case if one was to measure it on paper, which is two-dimensional.


However, if this theory was true, one would expect our judgement in three-dimensional situations to be perfect. However the book spine experiment shows that visual illusions occurs in three-dimensional situations as well. In this experiment, three books are placed so that the spines of the books are equally spaced between them all. The two books on the left are opened up facing each other while the third book is opened up facing away from the other two books. Although performed in three-dimensional situation, we arrived at the illusion that the two book facing each other much closer than the other book. Once again, this book finishes this section of discussion without definitive theory or explanation to the phenomenon.

Pattern recognition

Pattern recognition is concerned with recognising single patterns such as letters and  numerical symbols. When there are so many variations in orientation, typeface, size, and writing styles, how does the brain actually recognise these patterns? One theory suggests that the brain uses different for each pattern when a given pattern matches a template, a recognition is said to have occurred. In support of this theory, computational experiments had been set up to demonstrate the use of templates for pattern recognition. For instance, it has been shown that computers can correctly recognised 69% of numerical digits with only a handful of different templates installed per digit. With increasing number of templates per digit, higher accuracy of recognition is also achieved.

However, this method of recognition does not account for variations in writing styles. Therefore, an alternative theory known as feature theory was proposed. According to this theory, we recognise patterns by identifying key features of the pattern. For example, the letter ‘A’ can be described as two straight legs and a connecting crossbar. However it has been shown that word patterns of letters were made up of smaller letters, recognition of the letters is not always consistent with the theory. Once again, the book exits the discussion without a concrete theory in place.

Object recognition

Object recognition is concerned with how we identify objects. According to the theory of recognition by components, we recognise objects by studying the edges of the object. For instance, by looking at the curvature, combination of parallel lines, symmetry and straight lines, we associate what we see with the objects we know. In support of this theory, simple pictures were drawn and subjects were asked to identify these objects. Gradually though, various features of these pictures were removed and success rate in identifying these objects were recorded. It was found that information pertaining to the edges of the objects were crucial to successful identification, whereas those pertaining to surface features such as decoration and patterns make no difference to the performance.

Part two: image processing and identification in electronics and artificial intelligence

While I was working as an electronics engineer, I was working on a project dealing with CCTV footage. The goal of the project was to use the camera footage to monitor a warehouse. Although it would seem to be a simple task, we were asked to design a program that could control up to 50 cameras to home in into problem spots from different angles. It is hoped that by doing so, the company would stand a better chance of capturing crucial features of the intruder from different angles. However, this is easier said than done. For example, one could argue that all we need is a motion sensor. If the movement is detected, then move nearby CCTV to focus on the detection spot. However, what if a cat passes by? Or what if there are more than one person involved in breaking into the premises? How will the system cope? Therefore, our task involved studying CCTV images and identifying a way of recognising common objects.

In this case, the CCTV images are equivalent to retinal images. These images on its own have no meaning whatsoever, or at least not until the brain or the computer has processed the information and interpreted it. In this respect I find what I have been reading in cognitive psychology remarkably similar to what may be called artificial intelligence.

Part of the work that I did, we use edges for object identification. More specifically, we have looked at significant changes in colours to identify edges. The underlying assumption here is that the edges of an object can be identified by colours. For example, a white car that is parked in the middle of the park would have green surroundings around it. Therefore, if we draw a line between colour contrasts, we would be able to trace the shape of the car.

Identifying the shape of a car or any other object was not too difficult. Since many of these objects have common dimensions and size, engineers can use 3-D vectors and are the mathematical tools to identify objects. However, before these mathematical tools can be employed, first we need to know the dimensions that of the objects. Of course, this means interpreting two-dimensional images. This again is a problem. Take a book for example, if the book was placed near the camera, it will look bigger; if however the book is placed further away from the camera, it will look smaller. This is where the study of aspect ratio comes in. Typically, engineers will include objects with known size in their images so that they can calculate the size of the object of interest by comparison. In our project, we made sure that all our cameras can see certain fixed size objects that will help us in our calculation.

In terms of motion detection, we have tried to compare images captured five seconds apart. For the most part, where things are stationary they should not be any differences between the two images. However, if a person is walking by, we should be able to detect the motion by comparing the images before and after. By comparing and generalising the changes observed, our program was able to detect motions and predict future movements.


As I began reading this book, I was very worried because I did not know where I was going. It appeared to me that I was not learning anything new or other than basic secondary school level of physics and biology. However, as I read on, I am pleased that my patience paid off. On reflection, I have found the explanation of motion perception and object recognition remarkably similar to the work I have done in the field of electronics and artificial intelligence. I am pleasantly surprised with what I found.

At this point, I am faced with the dilemma. I am absolutely fascinated by the similarity of cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. Of course, with my background in electronics, I am inclined to investigate this area further. However, it seems to me that doing so will be defeating the objective of this exercise. For this reason, I have decided to stick with this book and just make my own observation and draw my own parallels with electronics and artificial intelligence as I go along.

Moving on

Looking at the table of contents of the book, the next few sections will be dealing with memory, languages and decision-making. No doubt there will be a lot of similarity with what I’ve done before, but until I finish reading the book and summarising my findings on this blog, I shall refrain from going back into my comfort zone.

Perhaps worth noting at this point, in the back of my mind, I am beginning to wonder how much of this overlap with what I personally know as electronics and artificial intelligence is also an overlap with web science.

Written by Mandy Lo on October 25th, 2011

Subject ontologies and the Web   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Economics,Psychology

At present I have a set of questions around the primary ontologies of disciplines and their relation to the web. These questions are to do with: how easy is it to collaborate within subjects and between subjects, how much do they lend themselves to being webified – either in relation to being encapsulated on the web, being disseminated via the web or via the mechanism of using the web as a medium for collaboration? I will probably, I think, be looking at trust as seen through the lenses of either psychology, or perhaps sociology, and then perhaps, the economics around these sorts of transactions. This is all very uncertain and questioning at present – I will be asking more questions of myself and then hardening and refining these, and deciding on the appropriate subjects as I go along. Plenty of reflexive thinking about the process of deciding on research questions as well as more objective thinking on the sorts of questions to ask!

Written by me1g11 on October 25th, 2011

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Identity (Post 8 – Psychology Research Methods)   no comments

Posted at 12:07 pm in Psychology

Following on from the common theories in psychology listed in my previous post, this post will summarise the research methods and techniques used in Psychology, according to Psychology by Carlson, Martin and Buskist (2004).

Psychology uses the scientific method, containing three core types of research: observation (in natural environment, e.g. Darwin); correlational studies (observation with formal measurements and examination of relationships between measurements); and experiments (making things happen and observing the results).

Experiments are seen to be the most rigorous, and five stages are described for all research of this nature:

  • Identifying the problem and creating a cause-effect hypothesis
  • Design the experiment – define the independent and dependent variables
  • Conduct the experiment – record observations
  • Examine data collected and evaluate hypothesis
  • Communicate the results

While observations are commonly used in psychology, it is experimentation that quantifies behaviours and is the only method that can determine whether theories are correct (although the importance of qualitative research has increased since the 1970s). Experiments are likely to include an ‘experimental group’ on which the study is aimed, and a ‘control group’ which is used for comparison and uses techniques such as administering placebos to replicate the conditions of the experimental group (when the research knows who is receiving a placebo, this is called a single-blind study. A double-blind study is when neither the participants nor the researcher knows who is receiving a placebo).

An experiment may use independent groups (between-groups) where each group of participants is tested in a slightly different way, or repeated measures (within-groups) where every participant is exposed to the experiment in the exact same way. Experiments may be classed as laboratory experiments where the researcher is in control over all variables, or field experiments which occur in the natural or normal environment, and in which the research should not interfere.

Whereas my other discipline (anthropology) involved studying a single particular society or community, psychology aims to explain features of behaviour more generally and so research must make use of samples to infer findings across a larger population. Random sampling is typically used. In some scenarios however, single-case study is used to focus on individuals and this uses either experiments or correlational studies. Correlational studies are studies used when there are variables which are needed to be studied but cannot be manipulated by the researcher e.g. social class, income, sex, personality etc.

Some qualitative research used in psychology includes semi-structured interviews, discourse analysis and grounded theory. However qualitative research is still rejected by many psychologists as it is too subjective for this field.

Written by Chris P on December 28th, 2010

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Identity (Post 7 – The roots of psychology)   no comments

Posted at 11:35 am in Psychology

Having summarised my initial anthropology readings in my previous blog post, I have now moved on to psychology. The book I have chosen to begin with is Psychology by Carlson, Martin and Buskist (2004). As this assignment concerns the underlying theories of each discipline, the section titled ‘Philosophical roots of psychology’ seemed like a good place to start. To summaries, these are as follows:


A belief that a body is controlled, or animated, by a mind or spirit. Although this is a rather basic and historical theory, there are still links to modern explanation of behaviour, with a person’s will now being seen as the cause of certain behaviour. This is not, however a scientific explanation, as a person’s will cannot be studied.

Dualism (Descartes)

Belief that reality can be split into two separate entities: mind and matter. Proposed the theory that mind and body interact. Influenced introspectionism and behaviourism.

Empiricism (Locke and Hume)

“Pursuit of truth through observation and experience”. Suggested that all knowledge must come from experiences, rejecting the belief that children were born with ideas in their mind.  Simple ideas connect to form complex experiences. Positivism (Hume) – “All meaningful ideas can be reduced to observable material”.  Ideas influenced behaviourism.

Idealism (Berkeley)

Ideas come from senses – “knowledge is the result of inferences based on the accumulation of past experiences derived through the senses”. Materialism (Mill) – Mind as a machine, part of the physical world.

More modern theories regarding psychology were then covered, and can be reduced down to and summarised as:

Structuralism (Wundt)

Mind could be broken up into the components which formed it to be studied (introspection).

Functionalism (James and Angell)

Study of conscious activity such as perceiving and learning. Thinking as a function to influence behaviour.

Psychodynamic Theory (Freud)

Theory of personality. Concepts of ego, superego and id. Included structures and emphasised function.

Behaviourism (Thorndike, Pavlov and Watson)

Followed from Functionalism. Relation between environment and behaviour. Cause-and-effect relationships. This theory relies on observable behaviour. Belief that reflexes can be conditioned. This developed further into radical behaviourism: All behaviour comes from interactions with the environment, with reinforcement influencing the responses to stimulus.

Genetic Epistemology (Piaget)

Interested in how a developing child acquires knowledge.

Gestalt Psychology (Wertheimer)

No longer exists, but has been adapted into other areas of psychology. Attempted to discover how cognitive processes are organised and interact to form perceptions.

Humanistic Psychology

Argument against behaviourism and psychoanalysis – conscious processes should be studied. Focuses on “experience, choice and creativity, self-realisation and positive growth”.

Cognitive Revolution

Behaviourism too restricting, more focus on memory and more personal ‘private’ events.

Biological Revolution

Focus on understanding the brain, and locating which function occur in certain parts of the brain.

Written by Chris P on December 19th, 2010

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PRIVACY (Blog Post 7)   no comments

Posted at 3:56 pm in Politics,Psychology

PRIVACY – Politics and Psychology (Blog Post 7)

Unfortunately my reading this week has been rather limited due to other work commitments and so for my politics research I have just read an article on the political philosophy of John Locke, in a return to the fundamental ideas and principles that have influenced political development: A Tuckness (2010) – Locke’s Political Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy).

John Locke (1632-1704) is particularly influential within the context of this research as he presented political ideologies in relation to the issue of privacy.  Locke purported a rather radical conception of political philosophy deduced from the principle of self-ownership and the collar right to own property. This is also based on Locke’s famous statement that a man earns ownership over a resource when he mixes his labour with it. He argued that Government should be limited to securing the life and property of its citizens and it is only necessary when problems occur that would make lives more insecure. Locke’s work – Two Treatises of Government in 1690 was a direct counter-argument to Thomas Hobbs’ Leviathan, in which Hobbes argues in favour of absolutist Government to prevent people from abusing property and privacy. Whilst The Second Treatise of Government is still influential today which has helped shape political philosophy and formed the basis for political doctrines such as The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. It places sovereignty into the hands of society.  His fundamental argument is that people are equal and invested with natural rights in a state of nature in which they live free from outside rule. Individuals can change some of their natural rights to enter into society with other people, and be protected by common laws and a common executive power to enforce the laws, having executive power to protect their property and defend their liberty. The civil state is bound to its people, and has power over the people only insofar as it exists to protect and preserve their welfare. Thus citizens have the right to dissolve their government, if that government ceases to work solely in their best interest. The government has no sovereignty of its own–it exists to serve the people. Locke sees personal liberty as the key factor of a society that works toward the individual’s and the state’s best interest.

For psychology I have collated the previous readings in order to attempt to provide answers for some questions that have arisen through the research. Such as within behaviour privacy is an important aspect, but is it important as an overall issue within psychology. I have identified that the areas within psychology that are most closely associated with privacy are self and identity however there are other aspect which can be associated such as: Social psychology, Industrial/ organizational psychology, and environmental psychology.   Ellen Berscheid (1977) stated that social psychologists have studied many topics that address privacy-related issues “but which are often overlooked as privacy related.” She included social facilitation, attitude formation and change, social influence, deindividuation, and social comparison processes, among other topics.  I am also of the opinion that deception and disclosure could be linked to this area. In particular the latter has been linked to privacy for nearly 30 years.  (e.g., Derlega & Chaiken, 1977; Derlega, Metts, Petronio, & Margulis, 1993). Bella DePaulo et al, 2003) and Andy Johnson (1974) have made persuasive cases, respectively, for linking privacy and deception and privacy and psychological control.

Next week I intend to do further reading into the areas of democracy and behaviour.

Written by Lisa Sugiura on December 6th, 2010

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