Archive for the ‘Psychology’ tag

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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What is the web doing to our minds?   no comments

Posted at 2:03 pm in Uncategorized

My exploration stems from the question as to how the web is changing human cognition: The way we think, they way we understand, the way we learn and reason. This is primarily resulting from a very enjoyable reading of ‘The Shallows’ by Nicholas Carr, which has sparked many debates, both internally with myself and with others, sometimes beocming quite heated. It is indeed a controversial topic, with very interesting arguments being raised from numerous different perspectives.

The questions are not just the if or the how in a psychological or physical sense but also a philosophial consideration of the greater impact and entering the terriroties of cognitive extension and the web. Is this a dangerous notion or a good one and should we encourage it or discourage it? If we are truly outsourcing not just our memories but our thoughts and indeed, our thinking processes themselves, where does this leave us in ten years time? This of course leads back to the psychological concerns of what is actually happening internally within ourselves, are certain facilities for thought being replaced by others? What have we given up when we pick up a SatNav system or an iPhone to help guide us rather than a map and a compass (particularly relevant after having spent a weekend doing Duke of Edinburgh learning to navigate without such technology!) or when we let Facebook decide what it thinks is important for us and intersting to us so we don’t have to?

To begin this journey of explanation, I shall thus be diving deeper into the realms of both psychology and philosophy to explore the question – what is the web doing to our minds?

Written by Oliver 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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Psychology – The Biology of Behaviour   no comments

Posted at 12:55 pm in Uncategorized

This week I have continued my reading of Carlson et al. (2007) focusing on psychology, but particularly on the brain and its components, drugs and behaviour, and the controlling of behaviour and the body’s functions.

The brain and its components

The brain is the largest part of nervous system and contains 10billion -100billion nerve cells. All of the nerve cells are different sizes, shapes, functions they carry out and chemicals they produce. To understand the brain we need to look at the structure of the nervous system. The brain has 3 primary jobs: controlling behaviour, processing and storing information about the environment and adjusting the body’s physiological processes. There are two divisions which make up the central nervous system: the spinal cord and the brain. The spinal cord is connected to the base of the brain and runs along the spinal column. The brain contains three major parts:

The brain stem – controls physiological functions and automatic behaviours
The cerebellum – controls and coordinates movements
The cerebral hemispheres – concerned with perceptions, memories

The brain and spinal cord float in a liquid known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that provides a cushion like protection. A blood brain barrier, ensures less substances pass from the blood to the brain to reduce toxic chemicals. A cerebral cortex, which is a 3mm layer of tissue, covers the surface of the cerebral hemisphere and has a billion nerve cells. The brain works with the body through the peripheral nervous system.
Sensory information, decision making, and controlling muscles, are all sent to the brain through neurons which make up the nervous system. To receive, process, and transmit information neurons contain; dendrites, soma, axon, and terminal buttons. Support is provided by glia, that also produces chemicals required by neurons, remove chemicals not required and help protect neurons from infections.

Neurons communicate with cells through synapse. When a message is sent from the presynaptic neuron it is received by the postsynaptic. A neuron accept s messages for lots of terminal buttons which results in terminal buttons creating synapses with several all neurons. Communication between synapses is chemical producing called neurotransmitter. When the axon is fires an actions moves down an axon causing the terminal buttons to release the neurotransmitter chemical.

Drugs and Behaviour

Chemicals that can be found in nature can affect people’s perceptions and behaviours. But some of these chemicals can be useful and are used as therapeutic remedies. By understanding how drugs affect the brain, help us to understand disorders and how to develop new methods of treatment.

Drugs can be said to alter our thoughts, the way we perceive things, the emotions we have, and the behaviour we demonstrate. This is achieved by affecting the activity of the neurons in our brain. Some drugs can stimulate or inhibit the release of neurotransmitters (chemical that is realised when neurons communicate) when the axon is firing, e.g. the venom of a black widow spider. Some drugs can stimulate (e.g. nicotine) or block postsynaptic receptors (e.g. cocaine). Finally, some drugs can impede on the reuptake of the neurotransmitter after it has been released, e.g. botulinum toxin or block receptors all together e.g. curare.
There are two important neurotransmitters that help achieve synaptic communication:

Glutamate – has excitatory efforts, every sensory organ passes messages to the brain through axons with terminals that release glutamate. One type of glutamate receptor – NMDA can be affected by alcohol. This why some ‘binge drinkers’ sometimes say they have no memory of what happened the night before when they were drunk. Likewise if a person has been addicted to alcohol for a long time this receptor can become suppressed, making it more sensitive to glutamate. So if a person stops drinking alcohol then this can strongly disrupt the balance of excitation and inhibition in the brain.

GABA – has inhibitory effects. Drugs that suppress behaviour, cause relaxation, sedation, and loss of consciousness act on a certain GABA receptor. For example if Barbiturates are taken in large quantities they can affect how a person walks, talking, cause unconsciousness, comas and even death.

Muscular movements are controlled by Acetylcholine (ACh) as well as controlling REM sleep (the part of sleep where most dreams occur), activation of neurons in the cerebral cortex and functions of the brain that are concerned with learning. ACh receptors are stimulated by the highly addicted drug nicotine. However the drug curare can block Ach receptors causing paralysis.
Dopamine is important in helping movement and helps in reinforcing behaviours. People with Parkinson’s disease are often given the drug L-DOPA to accelerate the production of dopamine. Drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine stop the uptake of dopamine and with people abusing these drugs would suggest that dopamine plays a role in enforcement.
Norepinephrine is said to increase vigilance and helps control REM sleep. Serotonin helps to control aggressive behaviour and risk taking, and drugs that have an impact on the uptake of serotonin are used to treat disorders concerned with anxiety, depression and obsessive compulsive disorders.

Control of behaviour and the body’s physiological functions

A side view of the brain illustrating the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, the primary sensory and motor areas and the areas of the association cortex

Figure 1. A side view of the brain illustrating the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, the primary sensory and motor areas and the areas of the association cortex

Figure 1 shows how the cerebral cortex part of the brain is split up into four parts also known as lobes – the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, temporal lobe and the occipital lobe. The areas of the cerebral cortex that receive information from the sensory organs are the primary visual cortex (concerned with visual information), the primary auditory cortex (concerned with auditory information), and the primary somatosensory cortex (concerned with information with regards to body senses).the area of the cerebral cortex concerned with the control fo movement is the primary motor cortex and the association cortex is concerned with learning, perceiving, remembering, planning and moving.

Some functions within the brain are lateralized both hemispheres are responsible for different functions. The left hemisphere takes part in analysis of information, and controls serial events (e.g. talking, understanding speed of other people, reading and writing). Whereas the right hemisphere is responsible for synthesis, puts separate elements together to create the bigger picture e.g. draw sketches, read maps. It is also involved in understanding the meanings of certain statements, and damage to this hemisphere can alter these abilities. Although they are responsible for different tasks, these hemispheres combine information through a bundle of axons connecting the two, known as the corpus callosum.

Behind the central fissure are lobers that are reponsisble for learning, perceving, and remembering:

Occipital lobe as well as lower lobes – information concerned with seeing/vision

Upper temporal lobe – information concerned with hearing/auditory

Parietal lobe – information concerned with movement/sensory

However these lobes also perform other functions such as processes concerned with perception and understanding of the body. the lobes situated at the front are responsible for motor movements, such as planning strategies for action. Similarly, the Broca’s area (left front of he cortex) is used to control speech.

Situated in the Cerebral hemispheres is the limbic system which is key when it comes to learning, memory and emotions. This is made up of lots of areas of the limbic cortex as well as the hippocampus and amydala, both of which can be found in the temporal lobe. The latter is concerned with emotions and such behaviour, e.g. aggression and the hippocampus takes part in learning and memory. People who damage the hippocampus are unable to learn anything new but can remember and recall past memories.

The brain stem is made up of three parts:

The Medulla – manages heart rate, blood pressure, rate of respiration

The Pons – manages sleep, and how awake someone is

The Midbrain – manages movements when fighting and when involved in sexual behaviour

Sensory information is received by the hypothalamus, this includes information about changes in the body’s physiological status, e.g. body temperature. It also manages the pituitary gland which is attached to the bottom of the hypothalamus. It also manages the endocrine system (endocrine glands).

Hormones are similar to neurotransmitters as there effects can be seen by stimulating receptors, but they work over a much larger distance. When these hormones combine with receptors they result in physiological reactions in the target cells (receptors in certain cells). The hypothalamus manages homoeostatic processes by its control of the pituitary gland and the autonomic nervous system. However, it can also cause neural circuits in the cerebral cortex to perform more complicated, learned behaviour.

My blog post on criminology will follow shortly

Figure 1 taken from

Written by kd2v07 on November 28th, 2010

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PRIVACY (Politics & Psychology) – Blog post 5   no comments

Posted at 6:36 pm in Politics,Psychology

PRIVACY (Politics & Psychology) – Blog post 5

As my previous readings within Politics have led me to identify the areas of globalization and security as paramount in relation to the issue of privacy I have extended my reading to specific books focusing on this concepts.

Globalisation, Competitiveness and Human Security (1997) – Cristobal Kay ,states that globalisation can include political negotiations, cultural trends and increased internationalisation of economic activities. It is also the process whereby enterprises become interdependent and interlinked globally via strategic allegiances and international networks. The book  discusses changes occurring on a global level. Such changes are beyond the influence and henceforth the control of any individual person, community or even the government. It is therefore logical to link these dynamics to society experiencing feelings of insecurity over many related issues, including that of loss of privacy. After the end of the Cold War in 1989, which was predominantly viewed as a positive outcome as it reduced the fear of global military conflict which would have threatened peace and security, many political and economical reforms were instigated within developing countries and at the global level there was an overwhelming sense of security due to the dissolution of the threat of nuclear war. However it has been purported that there are new specific threats to human security, many of which have international or global dimensions as their root causes can be traced to events and processes occurring outside of their territories, namely globalisation and competitiveness. The UNDP (1994):23 produced a list which delineates all aspects of human security; on that list under political security was violation of human rights – privacy connotations. The implication is that globalisation and competiveness can be directly attributable to human development and to reduce people’s insecurities.

Globalization and insecurity – political, economic and physical challenges (2002) – Barbara Harriss-White, gave the definition of insecurity as ‘unsafe or unreliable’ and  determined that there are four areas of physical insecurity which are interrelated:

  1. Threats to persons, property and/or environments
  2. Economic and political autonomy of states
  3. Instability, particularly of market
  4. Vulnerability – a susceptibility to damage, closely but not completely aligned with poverty and inequality

This book also discusses globalization as a political process, whereby the main forces producing it have moved away from industry and weapon production towards instead, technology, information and communications, and financial control of everything else. It is suggested that it is the political project that causes insecurity via poverty, regulation of health and the reworking of national politics.

For the psychology part of my independent disciplinary review this week I have been reading : Self – Presentation Impression Management and Interpersonal Behaviour (1995) – Mark R. Leary. Self-presentation deals with the ways in which human behaviour is affected by people’s concerns with their public impressions. The norm would be that individuals would prefer that others perceive them in a flattering light rather than in an undesirable manner. Thus people may act in a certain way in order to make an impression on someone e.g. the job applicant in an interview. It is determined that generally people’s concerns with others’ impressions constrain their behavioural options and so individuals would be reluctant to conduct acts which would be seen as morally/ socially reprehensible in public. This is not necessarily negative though as a world where no-one cares about the opinions of others would be far more detrimental. Consider people saying or doing anything without considering the feelings of others etc. However it is possible for people to be too concerned with what others think about them which can lead to feelings of insecurity building up. The book also discusses the differences between exaggerations and lies in relation to the fact that individuals are multi – faceted and can therefore convey many different aspects of their characters, the majority of which may be genuinely true attributes, depending on the circumstances. Thus rather than lying per se, people may select the images they want others to form from their repertoire of true-self images.

There are two prevalent thinkers in relation to self-presentation: Erving Goffman who was a sociologist and wrote ‘The presentation of self in everyday life’ (1959) in which he determined that much can be gained by focusing on public behaviour, and Edward Jones (1990) ‘The study of impression’, in which he discussed management and self – presentation being an integral part of the study of interpersonal perception as it is not possible to fathom how people view each other without knowing the dynamic to self-presentation at the same time.

I will be continuing my reading further into these areas within my two disciplines as I feel that there is far more valuable information to be obtained towards the overall research.

Written by Lisa Sugiura on November 23rd, 2010

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Introduction to Psychology and Criminology   no comments

Posted at 9:59 pm in Uncategorized

This week I have started my reading on Psychology and Criminology, which are the two disciplines that I am going to explore for my review.

Psychology – What is Psychology?
Psychology can be defined as the science of behaviour – the discovery and explanation of the cause of certain behaviours. Psychologists try to explain these behaviours by studying its causes, to explain why people do what they do. Some psychologists also examine the behaviour of animals to help provide insights into factors that can affect human behaviour. Different psychologists study different behaviours and are interested in different groups of causes, but how do we study and explain human behaviour? In order to understand why we do what we do, psychologists must become familiar with what people do, and look at the events responsible for a behaviour’s occurrence. Carlson et al (2007) have recognised 12 approaches to understanding the causes of human behaviour:
Physiological psychology– examines the role of the brain in behaviour

Comparative psychology – explores the behaviour of various species of animals to try and explain the behaviour in terms of evolution.

Behaviour analysis – consider the effects of the environment on behaviour

Behaviour genetics – look at the responsibility of genetics in behaviour

Cognitive psychology – explores complex human behaviours and mental processes e.g. perception, attention, learning, memory etc.

Cognitive neuroscience – works alongside cognitive psychology and physiological psychology and is concerned with looking at brain mechanisms that are responsible for cognition.

Developmental psychology – is concerned with the development of behaviour throughout a person’s life. Includes looking at physical, cognitive, emotional, and social developments.

Social psychology – studies the results/effects that a person’s behaviour has on others.

Personality psychology – looks at individual differences in patterns of behaviour and a person’s temperament.

Evolutionary psychology– is the study of natural selection and how this can influence behaviour.

Cross cultural psychology – studies the consequences of how culture can affect behaviour.

Clinical psychology – is concerned with looking at mental disorders, problems of adjustment and the causes and treatments of these.

By studying behaviour and its causes – we can look at how to solve problems and simply fulfil our need to understand what makes human beings work. For example, excessive smoking, obesity, poor exercise, bad diet, and heavy drinking are all responsible for many illnesses, which could be reduced and peoples living conditions increasingly improved if people changed their behaviour. Psychologists can therefore, apply their knowledge of behaviour to a range of problems and provide a solution. In this way it can be considered a profession. For example school psychologists try to help students with behavioural problems, and consumer psychologists provide advice to organisations that offer a service or buy and sell goods.

Carlson, N. et al (2007) Psychology: The Science of Behaviour. 6th Edition. USA: Pearson

For my reading next week I am hoping to look at research methods used by psychologists and start to look at evolution, genetics and behaviour. I also hope to start my reading of the book: The Psychology of the Internet by Patricia Wallace.

Criminology – A Brief History
The idea that criminals are driven by forces beyond their control still exists today. However, prior to the modern age of crime and criminal behaviour, it was proposed that criminals were possessed by demons that forced them to do bad things beyond their control – known as ‘Demonology.’ There was little written law, and crime was associated with sin. This meant that the state felt they had ‘moral authority’ to use horrible methods of torture and punishment. The accused were subjected to closed trials, torture and harsh punishments – which were often inflicted on the physical body of the accused. The accused also faced the possibility of being tortured to death. Little use was made of imprisonment as prisons were mostly used for holding suspects and offenders before they went to trial or punishment. It was thought that the threat of cruel punishments administered in public and with theatrical emphasis would act as a deterrent for the ‘dangerous’.

The criminal justice system was ‘chaotic, non-codified, irrational, irregular and at the whim of individual judgement.’ It was only with the emergence of the modern era and new methods of viewing and responding to the world, that lead to a breakthrough in the way that crime and criminal behaviour was dealt with.

Defining the extent of crime

Crime can include a range of different activities such as fraud, theft, robbery, assault, corruption, rape, and even murder. Crime can often be thought of as the doing of wrong, but not all activities that some might consider immoral, are thought of as crimes. For example, parking in a disabled space when your not actually disabled is immoral but isn’t considered to be a crime. The easiest way to define crime is an act that breaches criminal law. This can be problematic because in English law some offences (i.e. murder, serious assault), re seen as ‘real’ crimes and can be described as ‘mala in se.’ But some crimes are ‘mala prohibita’ prohibited because they are for the protection of the public.

As with everything, legal definitions change over time and vary between different cultures. What may be legal in one country may be illegal in another. Crime can therefore be considered ‘part of a political process’ and a ‘social construction,’ which is increasingly seen in the media.

Explanations and research into criminal behaviour have emerged from studies which have been carried out on individuals from lower socioeconomic groups. It is considered this ‘dangerous class’ have been at the forefront of criminological thought since the start of modern society. But it is important not to forget the problem of what is known as ‘white collar’ crime or corporate crime which often involves a person of respectability and high social status.

Burke, R.H. (2005) An Introduction to Criminological Theory. 2nd Edition. Devlon: Willan Publishing.
For my reading next week I am hoping to look at models and traditions that attempt to explain crime and criminal behaviour.

Written by kd2v07 on November 6th, 2010

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The winner is… Psychology   no comments

Posted at 4:57 pm in Uncategorized

My main achievement last week was to identify “collective problem solving” as my topic, and complexity science as my first subject. My first challenge this week was to identify my second subject. After consulting our resident experts, Craig, Olivier, Paul and Chris H, it has become clear that the most relevant subject will be psychology, specifically social Psychology.

So, on Craig’s advice, I’ve got hold of the hefty tome that is Paul Gross’s “Psychology”, and read the early chapters, deepening my understanding of the different major approaches to the subject, which will form the beginning of my review. The book is well structured and pretty clear, but seems light on research techniques.

Olivier recommended “Group Processes” by Rupert Brown, and I’ve been finding this an enjoyable read. After the early context, I’m focussing on the chapters on group productivity, which are directly relevant to my topic. It seems that research has focussed on trying to determine the relative advantage or disadvantage of doing things as a group as compared to doing them as individuals. They do this by statistically simulating groups actually made up of individuals working seperately, and comparing their performance to real groups working together. So far the results don’t look too complimentary for the collective, but there’s more to come.

On complexity science, I have attended another lecture and discussion, and I have raised my topic with the course leader, Seth. He’s agreed that it’s an interesting area, and complexity science has plenty to say about it. I hope to pick his brains further this week, particularly on reading.

Written by Jack on November 5th, 2010

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Privacy (Blog 2)   no comments

Posted at 11:49 am in Politics,Psychology,Uncategorized

This past week I have continued to read further into my two disciplines of Psychology and Politics and how they relate to the issue of Privacy. For Psychology I have largely focused on the ‘Handbook of Self and Identity’ in order to gain more of an understanding of the psychological phenomena that constitutes ‘the self’. I was rather surprised to discover that this notion has only really been in prominence since the 1970’s and yet it is an issue that was given recognition Millenia ago by infamous thinkers such as Plato and Buddha! However it is noted that when attempting to determine the meaning of ‘self’ there is no single, universally accepted definition and that amongst the numerous definitions that have been offered, different definitions relate to different phenomena.

In accordance with the area of ‘self’ there is the notion of ‘the reflected self’ whereby an individual adjusts how their behaviour appears to others. The chapter: ‘The Reflected Self: Creating yourself as (you think) others see you by Dianne M. Tice and Harry M. Wallace is especially insightful and informative in this area. They explore the idea provided by C.H Cooley (1902), that the ‘self’ develops in reference to others within the social environment; ties in with the concept that it is created by reflecting the views that others are perceived to have of that person. The theory of ‘the looking glass’ is also imperative in this study.

Already referred to in my previous Blog. I have decided to start my initial investigation into Politics and potential political theories and policies which may be privacy related; by looking at security matters. For this I have been reading ‘Contemporary Security Studies’. Firstly I have tried to establish what is security. A simplistic definition is ‘something to do with threats to survival’, however this encompasses a wealth of issues ranging from war and the threat of war to pandemics and terrorism. Particular theories that are appearing relevant at this juncture are Realism and Liberalism: traditional approaches which were the main focus for security studies during the 19th Century, Human Security: which focuses on the need for humans to feel secure and Securitization which was developed by the Copenhagen School’: which places primary importance on determining how an issue becomes that of a security issue by how it is articulated for e.g. something may become a security issue due to the fact political leaders and or Governments have convinced their audiences that it represents a threat to our existence and thus requires emergency powers.

I am also reading books about privacy in light of technological advances and I am currently halfway through ‘Blown to Bits’ and once I have finished with that I have ‘The Digital Person’ by Daniel J. Solove. Thanks to Olivier I also have Journal articles relating to privacy to peruse too, so I have plenty of information to digest over the next week…….

Written by Lisa Sugiura on November 2nd, 2010

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Game Theory   no comments

Posted at 10:07 pm in Uncategorized

Researching psychology on second thoughts will not take me out of my comfort and consequently I would learn little. I am therefore now looking into game theory. I first came across it while watching Adam Curtis’ iconoclastic film The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom . It is a fascinating theory, which attempts, in a way analogous to quantum physics, to connect the large to the very small. It has something to say about many fields of knowledge from the inner workings of our minds to the behaviour of nation states. For example, in his film Curtis describes how game theory influenced America’s Cold War strategy and contributed to R.D. Laing’s understanding of the causes of mental illness.

This is from Wikipedia:

Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics that is used in the social sciences, most notably in economics, as well as in biology (particularly evolutionary biology and ecology), engineering, political science, international relations, computer science, and philosophy. Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behaviour in strategic situations, or games, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others (Myerson, 1991).

My only problem now is limiting myself to two disciplines only.

Initial Reading
A Guide to Game Theory by Fiona Carmichael

Written by HuwCDavies on November 1st, 2010

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