AP Psychology Study Resource: Information Processing Theory

How complex are our minds?

There has been a lot of research in the last two hundred years to try and find out more about how the human mind works.

Because there are so many different, complex components, it can be hard to come to definitive conclusions.

Multiple researchers over the decades have proposed various theories about how our brain works. Based on research and various human studies, we are now at a stage of knowing substantially more about what goes on in our minds.

Let’s take a look at one of these theories and how it helps to explain the inner workings of the human mind.

What is Information Processing Theory?

So, what exactly is information processing theory?

Wikipedia explains that information processing theory is the concept that human beings actually process information that goes into the brain.

This is the opposite of the theory that we merely respond to stimuli. This particular theory closely compares the human mind to how a computer works. A machine is responsible for analyzing information that is input from the environment.

Within the information processing theory, there is an information-processing model that categorizes the various tools your brain has. These include bringing in new information through attention mechanisms, actively manipulating information through working memory, and passively holding data in the form of long-term memory.

Information processing theory looks at children and how they grow. It theorizes that as a child grows, its brain matures. This leads to the promotion of their ability to take in and respond to new information that they receive through their senses.

This theory’s primary goal is to emphasize that our brains go through a continuous pattern of development. This is in opposition to the idea of cognitive development, which proposes that the mind goes through different developmental stages, depending on the age of the person.

Comparing Humans to a Computer

So, what about this theory has psychologists comparing the human mind to a computer?

Saul Mcleod breaks down this computer-mind metaphor. He says that the development of computers in the 1950’s had a substantial influence on psychology as it existed then.

In fact, computers were almost solely responsible for the cognitive concept becoming the key approach in psychology as we know it today. The cognitive approach overtook behaviorism theory.

Cognitive psychologists now had an analogy to use when trying to describe how they believed the human brain processes new information. Because the computer is a tool to illustrate this theory, it’s often also called the computer analogy.

Why did psychologists use a computer to support their theory?

It’s because of how a computer works. A computer codes for inputting information, stores and uses information, all with the goal of producing an output.

Cognitive psychologists believed this closely illustrates how human thought occurs.

This information processing theory believes that t the environment is providing an influx of data, which alters our senses. Our minds can then retrieve the information, stored and transformed through existing mental programs.

Once this process has occurred, this information converts into behavioral responses.

Information Processing Theory: The Two Memories

Information Processing Theory Chart

Let’s take an in-depth look at the type of memory humans have, and how it’s involved in the information processing theory.

Psychologenie begins by discussing short-term memory, otherwise known as working memory. Short-term memory is our brain’s part of the sensory process where information is temporarily stored.

Once our brains have made a decision around this information, it’s either thrown away or shifted to long-term memory. In the short-term memory bank, it lasts for approximately 20 seconds. However, if recalled, it can last for up to 20 minutes.

Repetition and organization are the main components of retaining information. Within the organization category, the primary terms are sequence, component, transitional and relevant. Our brain usually applies the repetition tool when we are learning something new.

Let’s look at long-term memory.

Long-term memory is the part of the mind where memories stay permanently. They are accessible whenever you need them. Encoding information in the short-term memory bank is successful when it’s connected to an existing memory in the long-term bank.

Distributed practice and elaboration are two terms to describe how information is shifted from short-term to long-term memory. If a piece of information is well-planned, it’s easier to store it. Imagery structures of memory help to organize it in the long-term bank.

Fundamental Concepts of Information Processing Theory

Man thinking

We’ve briefly covered the emergence of information processing theory and how memory works.

Now, let’s take a look at the key concepts found within this theory.

Learning Theories explains that the information processing theory has been developed and broadened over the years. One concept to emerge out of psychology recently has been ‘stage’ theory.

‘Stage’ theory is used to describe a straightforward, linear way of the brain developing and processing information. While this has been an influential concept that’s garnered a lot of attention, unfortunately, it tends to simplify the human brain, underestimating its abilities.

Following this idea, the level of processing model was born.

This theory proposed that the information gathered and processed is expanded upon in a variety of different ways. This theory states that our ability to expand on knowledge can potentially affect the brain’s capability of recalling information further down the track.

Psychologists worked on this theory, developing the idea that information could potentially be easily retrieved if our minds access it in a way which is similar to how it was first stored.

Lastly, the connectionist model theorizes that information stores itself in different parts of the brain and all connected together as a cumulative network.

Nature vs. Nurture

Image of human brain

Nature vs. nurture is a familiar debate when it comes to the human mind.

Are our behaviors linked directly to our genetics, or do they develop as a result of our environment?

Information processing theory isn’t exempt from this debate.

Psychology explains that the question here is looking at development concerning continuity vs. stages.

Explicitly speaking, does the development of an individual occur continuous, regardless of their environment, or in distinct phases where the environment is very much a key factor?

Piaget, a pioneer of the cognitive development theory, believed that each developmental stage our minds go through is entirely dependent on the developmental stage that came before it.

However, subsequent research into this theory has debunked certain aspects of it. This includes the concept that some children are capable of advanced thinking at younger ages than was first assumed by Piaget.

Observations like this have led to the belief that cognitive development is potentially more of an uneven process, and less linear than initially thought. One recent developmental model promotes the idea that cognitive development occurs in pockets, rather than within a predetermined timeframe.

Information Processing Theory: Current Research

The latest research into this developmental theory has more links to computers than you may think.

Wikipedia says that information processing theory is currently being used to study artificial intelligence. This theory is relevant in settings that go beyond the individual, including family groups and even organizations.

Looking at the family model, individuals within a family will develop mutual and independent schemes that can influence how and what information is taken note of and consequently processed.

Dysfunctions within this theory can happen both at the individual level and family group, inevitably creating more goals for change in therapeutic models.

P.R. Rogers focuses on information processing theory with business organizations.

Through this model, he can conclusively determine whether a business model is effective or ineffective. Organizations focus on market information, and how well they process and subsequently store said information.

This concept includes the gatekeepers of an organization and their role in determining what information is worth keeping and what is disposable. The information processing theory is helpful and practical for testing business organizations and their overall profitability, based on their memory models.

Looking at Information Processing Theory

As humans, we are fascinated with how the brain works.

It’s one of the most complicated parts of our makeup. While we can open it up and study its anatomy, it’s much harder to assess the chemical networking’s that occur within the grey matter, making up our thoughts and memories.

Psychologists have spent many years theorizing how the brain works when it comes to absorbing external information, processing this information and eventually storing it.

Information processing theory believes that our brains work like computers, dutifully assessing new information so that we can make qualitative decisions about how we respond. This theory also proposes that our minds store data as a computer would.

Whether our brain works by slowly linearly developing over time or sporadically experiencing bursts of development, what we do know is that everyone is capable of storing memory. The debate will continue on how we do this.

AP Psychology Study Resource: Opponent Process Theory

Science explains to us how the body works.

We all have a fair idea of our anatomy, and how it works on a day to day basis.

However, some aspects of our body connect psychology and neurology.

While science can explain the action, psychology looks to the reason why the behavior exists. This is one part of the human body that’s been debated for centuries.

Many different psychologists have proposed theories based on their personal beliefs. Let’s take a look at one of these theories, and how it connects the mind to how our body functions.

What is the Opponent Process Theory?

The opponent process theory first came about when Ewald Hering developed it in 1878. Ewald Hering was a German physiologist.

Wikipedia explains that the opponent process theory is a neurological and psychological theory that helps to describe a wide range of human behaviors, including our ability to see in color.

The opponent process theory was later expanded on by a psychologist by the name of Richard Solomon in the 20th century, whom we’ll introduce a little later.

Hering took note of the fact that color combinations are existing that, as humans, we don’t ever get to see. These include yellowish-blue and reddish-green. He proposed through opponent process theory that three active opponent systems control our color perception.

Within this theory, Hering endeavored to suggest that we have three independent types of receptors. Each receptor type has opposing pairs. These are blue and yellow, red and green, and white and black.

Through the opponent process of our different receptors, each of these pairs produces different color combinations. This theory elaborates further on these differing receptors, suggesting that for each of the three pairs different chemicals occur and react in the retina for this purpose.

How Does the Opponent Process Theory Work?

So, how do these chemical reactions cause us to see in color?

Wikipedia continues by explaining that each of these chemical reactions causes the systematic building up of one color and the destroying of the other color within each pair.

Each pair of colors opposes each other. Your receptors for the color pair red-green cannot send messages to your brain about both shades simultaneously. The opponent process theory also helps to explain negative afterimages.

Negative afterimages are the perception of the destroyed color after you’ve seen the built-up member of the pair. This is because the chemical reaction reverses once you’ve seen one of the colors.

Let’s take the red-green pair and use it as an example of this. Red creates a positive response, while green, a negative one. Opponent neurons are responsible for these responses.

The opponent process theory also addresses color-blindness. Hering believed that color-blindness was due to the lack of a particular chemical existing in the eye.

A positive after-image will appear after we’ve stared at a brightly lit image. The image will vary with the intensifying and decreasing of the light used in the background of the picture.

Opponent Process Theory vs. Trichromatic Theory

Opponent Process Theory logo

So, if the opponent process theory is popular, what is Trichromatic theory and how does it relate to the opponent process theory?

Psyc explains that these two theories intend to illustrate different aspects of how we see in color and can work alongside one another.

The trichromatic theory was pioneered by Young and Helmholtz, who believed that individuals required three different wavelengths to see in color. Each wavelength has its own purpose and is in control of an entirely different set of chemicals.

Trichromatic theory believes that the overall balance of the three wavelengths is key to our perception of color.

The opponent process theory suggests that these three wavelengths exist, too. However, Hering believed that all three wavelengths existed within each color pairing of black and white, red and green, and blue and yellow.

Hering explains this through his theory of positive and negative chemical reactions through each color combination. Which of the three wavelengths that you hit is determined by the type of chemical reaction occurring within the color pairing.

With Trichromatic theory, it’s the opposite.

However, when bringing these two theories together, they complement each other. The trichromatic theory explains the science of color vision on a photoreceptor level.

Opponent process theory explains how color vision comes about as a result of how the photoreceptors are actually connected neurologically.

The Opponent-Process Theory in Action

The Opponent Process Theory circle colored

Sometimes, science comes to you. You can test out the theory of the opponent process yourself at home.

Healthline says you can use an experiment that can help to produce a negative afterimage. To conduct this experiment, you’ll need to place a small square of white paper in the center of a larger colored square.

The colored square can either be red, yellow, green or blue. Once you’ve centered your small white square, look at it for thirty seconds.

Immediately after this, look at another, much larger square of white paper and blink a couple of times.

Take note of the color of the afterimage you see.

Your afterimage should produce the opposite color to the one you’ve just looked at. This phenomenon is called cone fatigue.

As we learned above, the receptor cones in our eyes are one of three different wavelengths. If you look at the same color for an extended period, that particular cone receptor will become tired.

However, the cone receptors in your eyes responsible for looking at the opposing color have remained fresh and unused. They quickly replace the tired receptors, showing you the opposite color in your afterimage.

The Opponent-Process Theory and Emotion

Lonely girl setting

It seems that the opponent process theory is already complex enough. However, Richard Solomon didn’t see it this way and believed that he could add more to it.

Healthline continues by describing how Solomon built on Hering’s opponent process theory with his own opinion of motivational states and emotion. Solomon’s theory looks at emotions and notes how there are opposites for almost all of them. For example, the opposite of fear is relief, and the opposite of pain is pleasure.

Solomon’s emotion theory proposed that when we experience one of these emotions, our body is automatically suppressing the conflicting feeling.

An example of this is when you are awarded a prize. When you’re handed your prize, you feel pleasure and joy. However, a little while after receiving it, you may experience opposing feelings of sadness.

While this secondary reaction will eventually disappear, it often lasts longer than the first emotion. After repeated exposure to a stimulus, the first emotion always fades, giving way to the secondary feeling which intensifies.

Over time, the secondary emotion can become the emotion most associated with that stimulus.

How It Relates to Drug Addiction

lying girl with medicine in the floor

The opponent process theory, along with its additional concepts contributed by Solomon, is a great way to explain what people experience when they go through drug addiction.

Medical News Today says that when a person is addicted to a drug or substance, the pleasure they’ll feel from the drug will slowly decrease over time. This eventually leads to the person getting no positive feelings out of taking the drug.

In fact, not only will they not feel pleasure, but they’ll resort to the negative feelings they first experienced when the drug subsided.

This is known as experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

The person addicted to the drugs is now taking them to avoid the emotions they feel when in withdrawal. This is because motivation and emotions are the most significant driving forces when it comes to addiction.

The longer a person is addicted to drugs, the more negative side effects they’ll experience. The person’s desire to avoid the negative withdrawal symptoms often gets in the way of their potential to quit.

One of the best ways of controlling the emotions a person experiences when addicted to drugs is by first maintaining control of the adverse effects. This will push their need for a motive forward, encouraging them to look beyond the negative emotions toward the positive outcome that lies ahead.

Looking at the Opponent Process Theory

Opponent Process Theory logo

In the human body, everything interconnects.

While the opponent-process theory first started out as a way to explain the ability to see in color, it’s now widely used to describe the psychological effects of drug addiction.

Science and psychology typically offer opposing theories that address different aspects of people as human beings. However, now and then, they come together to form revolutionary ideas regarding the intricate inner workings that make us who we are.

Whether the opponent process theory has led to more light shed on color vision or drug addiction, all we know is that it’s helped to explain multiple facets of how we function and why we behave the way we do.

AP Psychology Study Resource: Social Identity Theory

We are all social by nature. However, our social identity isn’t always such smooth sailing. Let’s take a look at social identity theory, a psychological study into the way we as humans behave in social settings and groups.

The rise of social media has led us to share everything and be hyper-social.

We find our identity in our friend groups and broader social groupings that we can find common ground with.

It’s essential for our sense of identity and self-esteem to be able to assimilate successfully with some part of society. It’s inherent to who we are as human beings.

What is the Social Identity Theory?

So, what is social identity theory? Saul McLeod explains that social identity theory is an individual’s idea of who they are in accordance to the social groupings that they belong to.

Social identity theory proposes that the social groups an individual belongs and subscribes to are an important source of their pride and self-esteem. Being a part of a social group gives us, as a human, a sense of social identity and belonging in the world.

We use the social groups we are a part of to increase our self-image.

This works both ways – we also improve the status of our social groups to build ourselves up. An example of this is believing that the country we are from is the best country in the world.

Similarly, we can also use the opposite approach to make ourselves feel important. We can be quick to put down and act prejudiced against other countries, or groups that we don’t belong to.

A History of Social Identity Theory

Let’s take a little look at the history of social identity theory. Wikipedia explains that the term “social identity theory” was first used in the academic sphere in the 1970’s. However, the basic underlying concepts associated with this theory were already used by the early 20th century.

Social psychologists John Turner and Henri Tajfel came up with this theory in the 1970’s to explain the correlation between an individual’s personal identity and their intergroup behavior.

Initially, a collectivist perspective was taken on social identity theory, when it was first proposed as a concept in the 20th century. This implied that all social variables within a group were interlinked, meaning they moved and changed together, influencing one another.

However, when Henri Tajfel began his study of social identity theory, he approached it from an entirely different angle. He believed that the different characteristics found within group behavior weren’t interconnected.

Instead, he believed that these different aspects moved haphazardly through time and changed regardless of one another.

Since the 1970’s, social identity theory has primarily reflected a desire to move back towards a more collectivist perspective, especially concerning social psychology of social groups and the individual.

Ingroup Favoritism in Social Identity Theory

Let’s explore some of these different characteristics with social identity theory.

BC Campus explains that Henri Tajfel demonstrated how influential the role of self-preservation and concern is in group settings and perceptions. He found that merely dividing people into groups produced the concept of ingroup favoritism.

Ingroup favoritism is the tendency for individuals to respond more positively to other people within their own group, than to individuals outside of this group.

This characteristic of social identity theory begins at a young age. Children quickly develop a sense of identity within their own group. This “group” is typically characterized by race and gender. These feelings of ingroup identity will begin to influence the child’s behavior.

Young children have shown a greater liking for other children that fall into their own race and gender categories. After the age of three, children will typically play exclusively with individuals who are the same sex as them.

What’s interesting about this theory is that individuals also favor other people within their group that are more likely to express their own ingroup favoritism. What’s even more interesting is that babies as young as nine months old can also favor people who discriminate in this way.

Stereotypes in Social Identity Theory

Another interesting characteristic of social identity theory is stereotypes. Psychologie explains that stereotypes are often used to put people into categories based on an over-simplified perspective.

Stereotypes typically come about as a result of an individual situation applied to the entire group or community that the individual belongs to. Stereotypes are usually used to create a separation between groups and establish social superiority.

A typical example of this concept is the different stereotypes separating Native Americans and cowboys. The popular stereotype of cowboys states that they are civilized and modern, while Native Americans are dull and uncouth.

This stereotype results in the marginalization and establishment of the superiority of cowboys over Native Americans. This particular example reiterates itself in role-playing games that children play, wherein a fight between these two groupings, the Cowboys emerge champion over the Native Americans.

The stereotype concept is a characteristic of social identity theory that reinforces the similarities between ingroup individuals and the differences between these individuals and people of other groups.

Aspects of Social Identity Theory

We’ve discussed a couple of characteristics associated with social identity theory. Now, let’s summarize the three most common elements:

  • Social Categorization: Our first aspect is one that we’ve covered briefly already. Learning Theories explains that social categorization is the way we put people into boxes to identify and understand them better.

Examples of social categories include Democrat, student, professor. Belonging and understanding the groups that we belong to can give us detailed insight into who we are as individuals. We can also define what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate when it comes to behavior, according to the groups that we belong to.

  • Social Identification: When we adopt the identity of the social group that we belong to, we begin to emulate ourselves and act in ways that we think other members of the group would. As an example, if you identify as a Democrat, you’re likely to adopt the behaviors you most associate with and see within this group. As a result, you may develop an emotional connection to this identity, and your self-esteem may end up depending on it.
  • Social Comparison: Once we’ve developed a strong sense of identity within our chosen group, we begin to compare ourselves to other members of the group and find differences in people outside of this group. To maintain the self-esteem you’ve developed, you and other members of the group will compare against other groups in favor of yourselves. This helps to explain concepts like discrimination and prejudice.

Positive-Negative Asymmetry and Intergroup Similarity

Now that we’ve covered the fundamental characteristics found within social identity theory, let’s look at a couple of potentially controversial aspects. Aspects that may result from this type of social behavior.

The first is positive-negative asymmetry.

Wikipedia explains that this phenomenon is when members of a group prefer to punish individuals outside of their group circle. Instead of rewarding those within the group to develop their self-esteem.

The result of this idea means that social identity theory is unable to deal with bias when it comes to negative dimensions. For ingroup favoritism to occur, the social identity of a group must be psychologically dominant.

The second idea that exists as a result of social identity theory is an intergroup similarity.

This is the concept that when two groups are similar, there is a higher degree of motivation to establish themselves as different and separate from one another.

The reason why this second concept is so interesting is that it proposes an argument against the first theory.

Whether ingroup encouragement is more prevalent than outgroup discrimination to build up one’s self-esteem and sense identity is anyone’s guess. While both of these theories are valid and demonstrative, they also create an inconsistency in social identity theory.

An In-Depth Look at Social Identity Theory

As individuals, we can often find it hard to navigate our often harsh, cruel world.

However, other individuals around us consistently show similar patterns of behavior. This, in turn, helps us to feel solidarity in our struggles. And, encourages us to be more social to grow a strong sense of self.

Building our self-esteem from social interactions is a form of human behavior. It has been around much longer than the term “social identity theory.”

To learn more about ourselves as individuals and develop a strong sense of identity, we seek out those who are similar to us. Those who can shed light on who we are. When we function in these social groups, we end up isolation other individuals around us.

To build ourselves up individually, we bring others down.

This particular pattern of human behavior is so inherent that it lies on a subconscious level. We can’t help but feel influenced by the people in our social groups.

Featured image: CC0 Public Domain johnhain via Pixabay

AP Psychology Study Resource: Self-Concept

AP Psychology Study Resource: Self-Concept

Have you ever wondered what makes you – You?

Even if you have never thought much about this before, you will probably have some answers ready.

You might say you are a “father,” a “teacher,” a “free spirit,” or a “loving wife.”

Or you may look toward your achievements, saying you are “a successful entrepreneur” or an “award-winning author.” Alternatively, you may look at your personal traits, saying you are “happy go lucky,” “kind-hearted,” or “motivated,” for example.

No response is right or wrong – your opinion of yourself comes with a deep inner sense of knowing who you are as a person.

You develop this sense during your early years but through your life and those constant evaluations and changes you go through, it may change slightly.

This is the idea of self-concept, which we’ll explore in more detail below.

The Definition of Self-Concept

In general terms, self-concept refers to how someone perceives, evaluates, or thinks about themselves. Those who have a concept of themselves are aware of themselves.

There are many different definitions of this concept but they are all based on roughly the same idea – that it’s about the individual belief we have in ourselves, including what and who this “self” is, the personal attributes we have, and the many other aspects that join together to make us who we are, including spiritual, social, emotional, and physical points.

Your concept of self is the mental idea you have of who you are.

When you are young, this concept is far more moldable because you are still discovering yourself and forming your identity.

As you age, your self-perception will become more organized and detailed – you will have a better understanding of who you are what is important to you.

Lewis (1990) also suggests that there are two aspects involved in our development of this concept:

The Existential Self

As the most basic aspect of our concept of self, this is the sense of being distinct and separate from others, while also being aware of the constant of our self – Bee (1992).

For example, the child recognizes they are a separate being to others and that, over time and space, they continue to exist.

And according to Lewis, we become aware of our existential self from as young as 2-3 months old. This is partly down to the relationship a child develops with the world. They touch something and it moves or they smile at someone and someone smiles back, for instance.

The Categorical Self

Now, having come to the realization that they exist as an individual experiencing entity, they start to become aware that they are also an object.

Other things, including people, create experiences through their properties (e.g. they are rough, green, tall, or small), and the child becomes aware that, as an object with properties, they too can be experienced.

The self can also be categorized into other things such as skills, size, gender, or age. Age and gender are two of the first categories that will be applied to a child, “I am 2,” “I am a boy.”

During these early stages, the categories children place themselves in are very specific – e.g. their height, eye color, and favorite things.

But later on, they will also start to reference comparative evaluations, internal psychological traits, and other people’s perceptions to create their self-description.

This leads on to the different theories psychologists have about what components make up our self-concept.

What Makes Up Our Self-Concept?

As with all theories, there are various different ways you can look at this concept.

The social identity theory believes this concept is made up of two key aspects: personal and social identity.

Our personal self-includes the characteristics and personality traits that make us unique, whereas our social identity refers to the groups we are part of, including our college, religion, community, and other such groups.

In 1992, Dr. Bruce A. Bracken put forward the idea that our concept of self is made up of six areas:

  • Affect: Our awareness of emotional states
  • Social: Our ability to interact with others
  • Physical: How we feel about our physical condition, health, looks, and general appearance
  • Competence: Our ability to meet basic needs
  • Academic: Our achievements or failures in school
  • Family: How well we work in our family unit

Carl Rogers (1959) also had the theory that there are three parts to our self-concept:

Self-Image (How You Perceive Yourself)

Here, it’s important to understand that someone’s self-image and reality may not coincide.

Someone might have an egotistical self-image, believing they are better at certain things than they actually are. Or, someone might be self-deprecating, meaning they perceive or exaggerate weaknesses or flaws.

For example, a teenage girl may assume that she is socially inept, clumsy, and awkward when in reality she is well-liked and charming. A teenage boy may think he is overweight when he is actually quite thin.

Each person’s self-image will be influenced by many factors, including the media, friends, parents, social roles, physical characteristics, and personality traits.

In 1960, Kuhn explored the idea of self-image with his, The Twenty Statements Test.

He asked his participants to come up with 20 different answers to the question, “Who am I?”

His findings allowed him to divide the responses into two main categories – social roles and personality traits – an idea we already touched on above.

Social roles include objective or external aspects of ourselves, such as a friend, tutor, or daughter. Personality traits include affective or internal aspects of ourselves, such as funny, impatient, or kind.

Typically, when younger people are describing themselves, they will use personal features, whereas older people will feel their social roles play greater importance in their definition.

Self-Esteem (How Much You Value Yourself)

Sometimes known as self-worth, self-esteem refers to what extent we approve, accept, or like ourselves. It is also how much value we give ourselves. To create this view of ourselves, there is a degree of evaluation involved. It will also allow us to create a positive or negative perception of ourselves.

If we have a high self-esteem, we feel positive about ourselves. This gives us self-acceptance, confidence in our abilities, optimism, and lack of concern over what other people think.

But if we have a low self-esteem, we are negative about ourselves. This often leads to pessimism, wanting to look like or be someone else, lack of confidence, and constant worry about what other people think.

According to Argyle (2008), our self-esteem is influenced by 4 major factors:

  • How Others React: If people want to be in our company, are complimentary, admire us, listen to us, and agree with us, we tend to create a self-image that’s very positive. But if they tell us things we don’t want to hear, neglect us, and avoid spending time with us, this creates a negative self-image.
  • Comparison to Others: When we compare ourselves to people who we perceive to be better looking, richer, more successful, and happier than us, we will often create a negative self-image for ourselves. However, this becomes more positive if they are less successful than us.
  • Social Roles: There are certain roles in society that carry respect, including pilots, doctors, top footballers, and A-list celebrities. Other roles come with a stigma, including being unemployed, a patient in a mental institute, a prisoner, or a refuse collector.
  • Identification: The roles we play also become part of who we are. The positions we occupy, the groups we belong to, and the roles we play are all something we identify with.

Ideal Self (What You Wish You Could Be)

This is the person you would like to be. Also, there is often a mismatch between how you perceive yourself and what you would really like to be.

When this occurs and your self-image and ideal-self don’t match up, this tends to affect the value you have for yourself. Therefore, there is a close relationship between your self-esteem, ideal-self, and self-image, something psychologists explore through the Q-Sort Method.

For example, your ideal self may not match up to the experiences you have or what happens in your life. And when there is a difference between the actual experience and your ideal self, this is known as incongruence. But if there is consistency between the two, this creates a state of congruence.

It is very rare that a complete state of congruence will occur because the majority of us will have a certain level of incongruence.

The influences that affect how we develop this state of congruence are found in the four major factors Michael Argyle put forward for self-esteem.

Furthermore, Carl Rogers also stated that incongruence starts to form as early as our childhood. When parents introduce conditions on the affection they show toward their children (e.g. they have to “earn” their love and affection by behaving in a certain manner). The children then start to distort these memories which leaves them feeling as though they don’t deserve the love of their parents.

In contrast, unconditional love helps develop congruence. If a child feels this love, their memories don’t become distorted because they believe that others will accept and love them just the way they are.

Finding Your Self-Concept

Ultimately, self-concept is a complex and ever-changing theory. It depends on your personal belief systems, feelings, and attitudes. All of which can change when you receive new information.

Featured image: CC0 Creative Commons, bugent via https://pixabay.com.

AP Psychology Study Resource: Social Facilitation

AP Psychology Study Resource: Social Facilitation

Social facilitation is the theory that explores how someone’s performance can be improved when others are present.

This theory helps us understand our motivation in front of an audience. We get to say when we’re doing tasks, the more effective and successful we become.

For example, as we’ll find out, cyclists who are competing with others are more likely to perform better than if they’re just racing against the clock.

This also explains how mistakes mean more when people are asked to do unfamiliar tasks in the presence of competitors or an audience. Moreover, this becomes known as social inhibition.

Furthermore, on a driving test with an instructor, an individual gets more prone to errors and being over cautious due to self-doubt and/or nervousness.

Below, we’ll explore how this theory came about. We also learn how it evolved over the years.

The Definition of Social Facilitation

Photo of Women in Business at the White House representing Social Facilitation since they are working together
Image: CC by A-SA 2.0, businessforward, via Flickr

Studies surrounding this theory explore the extent of a person’s behavior. Notwithstanding if the act appears affected by the implied, imagined, or real presence of others.

It occurs when we perform better in a simple task while others get to watch you. However, people less expect for a complex task.

For example, this appears visible once your boss asks you to tidy up the meeting room. This theory suggests that you willfully go an extra mile to ensure tardiness and orderliness.

On the other hand, if you stayed for this task out of hours (when everyone else has left work for the day), the same level of attentiveness happens not to take place.

Yet, if the tasks get more challenging, e.g. decorating the meeting room while people see you, you definitely feel more pressure to do this task making you commit mistakes.

The Origins of Social Facilitation

Military cyclists in pace line as experimented by Norman Triplett on the origin of social facilitation
Image: Public Domain U.S., Airman Nathan Doza, via Wikipedia Commons

Norman Triplett created one of the first experiments into this theory in 1898.

He conducted research on cyclists’ speed records. Notably, he noticed that once the racing happens against each other rather than a timer, their speed increases. To emphasize his findings, he conducted further tests under laboratory conditions.

This involved getting children to use fishing reels.

The two conditions held a child working alone and children working in pairs. The tasks concerns winding up a certain length of fishing line.

Triplett reported that the work gets faster as soon as they partnered with someone else doing the same task.

This demonstrates the co-action effect.

Co-Action Effect

Communication in bulldog ants to represent Co-action effect
Image: CC by 2.0, Sylvain Dubey, via Wikipedia Commons

This phenomenon occurs when someone’s task performance increases. Conclusively, the presence of others doing the same thing affects the mere performance.

For example, relating to this reading material gets easier in a library environment than you do at home, even though the place appears quiet.

Other studies explore the co-action effect through the effort of Chen (1937). When working alongside other ants to dig sand, an ant digs three times as much compared if they do it on their own.

Likewise, Platt, Yaksh, and Darby (1967) discovered that an animal eats more food if there exist other animals (from their same species) there while eating.

Audience Effect

Football Game Players to explain the Audience Effect
Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, KeithJJ, via Pixabay

Social facilitation doesn’t just occur when someone gets co-acting with someone. But, this occurs also when there’s a passive audience/spectator present. Psychologists coin this as the audience effect.

In 1935, Dashiell found that subjects’ multiplication performances increased by the presence of an audience. This happens provided by increasing how many simple multiplications carried out. In 1925, Travis discovered that well-trained subjects perform better at a psychomotor test in front of spectators.

But in 1933, Pessin found the opposite of this. He reveals that subjects required fewer trials to learn a list of gibberish words in front of an audience while they work on their own.

What does this mean?

That social facilitation appears dependent on the nature of the interaction between the performer and task. In some cases, an audience or co-stars help boost the performance quality. As for others, their quality gets impaired.

Thus, according to Cottrell (1968), this theory concerns not all about the presence of people but rather the apprehension of being judged by them. Being aware of others’ evaluations leads to our approval or disapproval.  So, by being in the presence of others we get driven by evaluation anxiety.

Developing the Theory

As well as the aforementioned studies, Robert Zajonc happened also hugely responsible for piecing together the concept of this theory.

In 1956, he carried out studies to try and understand why some performed better or worse when in the presence of others. These experiments define two parts – simple or complex tasks in front of an audience.

His results denoted pretty clear-cut.

When people gain a lot of practice and performing a simple task, they performed better than those who perform more complex tasks. Nonetheless, these people obtain little practice at and some tasks appear unfamiliar.

This spawned the idea of “social inhibition.”

The Activation Theory

Basketball Game where the player attempts to shoot for 3 points to explain the Activation Theory and Alertness Hypothesis
Image: CC by 2.0, Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr

In 1956, the generalized drive hypothesis proposed by Zajonc became the backbone of activation theory. Also, this appears why you hear activation theory refers to as the Zajonc theory.

This gets the first theory to address both the decrease and increase in people’s performances in front of others.

Zajonc claimed that an organism’s arousal seems heightened when in the presence of others. This increases how well they perform their well-learned/habitual tasks. In contrast, this heightened awareness becomes an impairment when carrying out unfamiliar/more complex tasks.

He based this theory on Yerkes-Dodson’s Law, which stipulates that when it comes to performance levels these work like an inverse “U” function. This means that for easier tasks, we obtain a higher optimal drive level. For complex tasks, this gets lower.

To expand on this, there appears a number of different activation theories:

Alertness Hypothesis

In this theory, a performer occurs not aware of the actions of competitors or observers. This enables them to perform better as it heightens their alertness.

Monitoring Hypothesis

In this theory, social facilitation doesn’t occur because the performer gets familiar with how their audience/observer responds. This means the performer isn’t able to perform as well as they feel more pressure.

Challenge and Threat Hypothesis

This theory expands on the idea that people are better able to perform simple tasks in front of an audience.  Yet, this turns out less once they perform complex tasks in front of others. Mainly, this comes from the cardiovascular response to the activity.

When doing a simple exercise in front of people, the performer’s cardiovascular response gets normal. Indeed, this aids their performance. Hitherto, on complex tasks, this induces a cardiovascular response similar as to being placed under threat. Certainly,  this negatively impacts the performance.

Why Is It Important to Understand this Theory?

Woman Jumping High for European Artistic Gymnastics Championships
Image: CC by A-SA 4.0, Pierre-Yves Beaudouin, via Wikipedia Commons

By familiarizing yourself with this idea, it helps you gain a new perspective on motivation.


Because we often interpret how well someone performs based on their abilities.

For example, this gets visible when someone does a  given a task and fails to perform it well. Probably, this gets potentially assumed that there comes the unwillingness to put the required effort.

While that could be the case, social facilitation allows us to appreciate that how motivated we are toward a task. This comes dependent on whether others seem to evaluate us and how good we think we become at that particular task.

When we perform something easy and others observe, our motivation arrive high. This means we likely to get more positive feedback. However, when we start to worry about making mistakes, we surely receive negative comments from our spectators.

How can you use this concept effectively?

effective meeting and succesful presentation in the office through social facilitation
Image: CC by 2.0, Nguyen Hung Vu, via Flickr

By assigning tasks that not only match the participants’ skills but will also be observed by others.

For example, Sarah’s teacher has asked her to do a 3-minute presentation on her chosen topic. When speaking in front of a group of people, Sarah is confident. This means that she’s highly motivated to do this task. This gets possible since it denoted relatively straightforward for her.

Nonetheless, Sam is incredibly shy. So while he may benefit from learning to speak in front of others, his motivation levels are low. This comes from the fact that the task appears difficult for him. Therefore, he thinks he’ll perform poorly and get negative comments from his classmates.

Putting It into Practice

Overall, it’s clear that social facilitation enables us to understand how those around us are behaving in different surroundings.

This depends on the level of distractions, the task at hand, and the awareness of evaluation. This appears similar to the level of arousal in the subject and the subjects’ perspective on the task.  Whether it seems easy or difficult for you or me, this can be understood in detail by applying these theories.

Featured Image: CC by 2.0, Split the Kipper, via Flickr

AP Psychology Study Resource: Attribution Theory

AP Psychology Study Resource: Attribution Theory

Why is that person angry?

Is it because something awful has happened to them or because they’re bad-tempered?

Attribution theory explores how we give meaning to our own and others’ behavior. It is concerned with why and how we explain events and behaviors in the way we do.

Essentially, we make these attributions in order to understand the things we experience and these attributions have a huge influence on how we interact with others.

Below, we’ll explore the origins of this theory before moving on to look at the different types of attributions.

The Origins of Attribution Theory

Man Reflecting Origins of Attribution Theory through a Photo
Image: CC by 2.0, Michael Beaton, via Flickr

The theory was originally developed by a well-known psychologist, Fritz Heider.

Born in Vienna, Austria, in 1896, his career spanned over 60 years and saw him exploring how people interpret their own behavior and that of others.

Much of this was gathered in his book, The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations, which was published in 1958.

He believed that we attribute how others behave to our own perceptions and that these perceptions can be determined by long-held beliefs or specific situations.

While it isn’t an overly-complicated concept, it has led to many questions about how people relate to one another and why.

The Definition of Attribution Theory

Discussions on the Definition of Attribution Theory
Image: CC by A-SA 4.0, Thelmadatter, via Wikipedia Commons

In layman’s terms, attribution theory explores the means we use to attribute how others behave. Sometimes, it may be attributed to disposition. We can take an example when someone donates money to charity as this attributes to altruism.

In other cases, someone’s behavior may be attributed to a particular situation. So in the above example, perhaps the person donating the money has done so because they feel pressured by society.

Heider’s belief was that people often gave more attribution to personality than they should, meaning they placed less emphasis on situations. This means that when it comes to behavior, personality as an indicator isn’t as consistent as people may believe.

Through his philosophies, Heider developed certain themes that other psychologist explored in more detail. And there were two key ideas that became influential:

1. Internal Attribution

Whereby someone assigns the action of a behavior to an internal characteristic, rather than an outer factor. So when we are looking to justify the behavior of someone, we’re looking for internal attributions.

It comes in form through personality traits like altruism. In essence, we’re attributing how they are behaving to their motives, personality, or beliefs.

2. External Attribution

This occurs when we assign the cause of someone’s behavior to an event or situation that’s out of their control, rather than to their own internal traits.

When we’re trying to justify our own behavior, we’ll often make external attributions, such as environmental or situational factors.

For example, Jesse’s car breaks down. She suggests that it’s happened because she knows nothing about cars. This comes as a proof for internal attribution. But if she suggests that it’s because her car is old, this is classed as an external attribution.

The Correspondent Interference Theory – Jones & Davies

Proof of Correspondent Interference Theory on a lady getting a bottled water
Image: Public Domain, Shane T. McCoy, via Wikipedia Commons

Jones and Davis (1965) believed that people were particularly focused on intentional behavior, as opposed to unthinking or accidental behavior.

This theory helps us make more sense of how we make an internal attribution to someone’s behavior. They suggest that our tendencies to do this are higher when someone’s motive and behavior corresponds.

For example, when we see someone behaving in an ill-mannered way when they’re an ill-mannered person, this creates a correspondence between the two.

These internal attributions allow us to make assumptions about someone’s future behavior because they give us more information. This theory is what leads to us making these dispositional attributes toward this “intentional” behavior.

Davis used this term to refer to a time when someone suggests a person’s behavior corresponds with or matches their personality.

Correspondent inference methods

Jones and Davis suggest we draw upon 5 different information sources:

  • Choice: This internal factor appears as something freely chosen by someone without being forced by someone else.
  • Accidental or Intentional Behavior: If someone’s behavior appears to be intentional, we’re likely to attribute this to their personality, but if it seems accidental, we’re more likely to suggest an external cause has led to this behavior.
  • Social Desirability: If someone behaves in a non-conforming manner, this often leads to us making internal inferences. For example, if you saw someone in a fine-dining restaurant eating with their fingers, this is non-conforming behavior that’s likely to correspond with the individual’s personality.
  • Hedonistic Relevance: The intention of harm or benefit refers to the specific behavior.
  • Personalism: If someone’s behavior seems to intentionally have an impact on us, we assume this isn’t a cause of the situation we’re in but that it is “personal.”

Kelley’s Covariation Model

Classroom Set-up Proof for Kelley’s Covariation Model
Image: CC by A-SA 3.0, David Shankbone, via Wikipedia Commons

Introduced in 1967, this model is one of the most well-known attribution theories. Kelley developed a logical model that helped us judge whether a specific action should be attributed to an external or internal factor. –

What does covariation mean? It means that the person making the judgment has made multiple observations in different situations and at different times to garner their information.

They are able to identify the covariation of an effect they’ve observed and its causes. Kelley argued that we’re acting like scientists when we try to uncover what causes people to behave in certain ways.

Evidence for the Use of Model

The usage of three different types of evidence makes this assumption relevant to the Attribution Theory:

  • Consensus: To what extent someone else would behave in this same way if they were in a similar situation. For example, Judy drinks wine when she goes out for lunch with her friend. If her friend drinks wine too, this is highly consensus behavior – but if Judy’s the only one drinking wine, it’s low.
  • Distinctiveness: To what extent this person will behave in this way in similar situations. For example, if Judy only drinks wine when she’s out with her friends, this is a highly distinctive behavior. If she drinks wine anywhere and at any time, it’s low.
  • Consistency: To what extent the person acts like this each time a situation occurs. For example, if Judy only drinks wine when she’s out with her friends, this is highly consistent. But if she only drinks on a singular special occasion, it’s low.
Woman Multitasking as an Example of Kelley’s Covariation Model
Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, geralt, via Pixabay

Examples for Model Use

So how does this work? Let’s take a look at an example.

Meet Sally – she’s laughing at a comedian, which means her behavior is laughter.

  1. Consensus – If everyone else who’s watching the comedian is laughing, there’s a high consensus. If Sally’s the only one laughing, it’s low.
  2. Distinctiveness – If Sally only ever laughs at this comedian, there’s high distinctiveness. If Sally laughs at everyone and everything, it’s low.
  3. Consistency – If Sally always laughs when she sees this comedian, there’s high consistency. Lower chances happen when she has seen it before.

So, if everyone’s laughing at this comedian but they’re not laughing at the warm-up act, and if this particular comedian always gets his crowd laughing, then we’re going to make an external attribution. Sally is laughing at this comedian because they’re very amusing.

Alternatively, if Sally is the only one laughing but she laughs at other comedians yet always laughs when she sees this comedian, we’d make an internal attribution. Sally is the type of person who laughs at everything.


This leads to people making their assumptions based on correlation – they’ve seen two things together and assume one’s causing the other.

But what if we haven’t got enough information to make this kind of assumption? What if we don’t know Sally very well and we don’t know how she acts on a day-to-day basis?

According to Kelley, we revert back to past experience, looking for:

  • Multiple necessary causes: The win of a driver in a race founts from the high motivation to do so. We can also say an incredibly adept driver at driving and have trained hard to get to where they are. They must have all of these qualities in order to win.
  • Multiple sufficient causes: The driver’s vehicle fail the test prior to the race because of the modification. We also assume that they’re trying to cheat. Probably, the sponsors modify the car may for a special trick. Likewise, some other people ordered these sponsors. Any of these reasons would suffice.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental Attribution Error through Pacific Partnership among Instructor and Students
Image: Public Domain, Petty Officer 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam, via Wikipedia Commons

This relatively straightforward idea is something that many attribution theorists have observed over time.

Essentially, it means that, when you’re successful, you attribute this success to dispositional factors. You’ve worked hard and you’re talented, which is why you got the promotion.

But when you fail, you relate this to situational factors. Your opposition got lucky or you weren’t feeling well during your interview.

What’s more, we tend to attribute the exact opposite cause when other people are successful. So if your colleague gets a pay rise, it’s because they’ve been brown-nosing. If they miss out, it’s because they’re not good enough for the job.

Applying the Attribution Theory to Everyday Life

These are just some of the many different interpretations of Heider’s attribution theory. You’ll no doubt observe these behaviors and attributions all around you.

For example, when it comes to the fundamental attribution error, one needs to only look at a group of sports fans when they’re watching their team play. If they win, it’s because they’ve been working hard all season. Also, they’ve got the best players around. But if they lose, it’s because the referee is an idiot and completely biased.

10 of The Most Influential 20th Century Psychologists

As we merge ever more into society as we age, we are constantly learning new ideas and ideals such as ​assimilation psychology.

In doing this, we experience things that either change or confirm our current state of mind.  This is why we are often drawn to people that have new perspectives or ideas that we can draw from.

We Are All Just Trying to Make Sense of the World- It’s the Nature of the Beast



Think about a newborn baby. Babies are the cleanest slate possible When it comes to their psychology. They have not experienced anything thus far, so they are free to learn anything without any kind of interference from previous thought.

Babies often bond with their mothers within the first weeks of life. At this point, they have learned that mothers are the most important people in the world. As they get older, they often separate from their mothers to form attachments with dad, siblings, or other caregivers.

At this point, they learn that there are more people that can be trusted, also.

From these people that they grow to trust, they will learn other things by observing, such as how to hold silverware, proper manners, and toilet training.

Another phenomena of human psychology, especially assimilation psychology is that we are always trying to be like the people we are surrounded by. We tend to dress to fit in with our peers, we sometimes pick up similar musical tastes, and we might even pick up dialects and accents based on the people we work with or live near.

Why does this happen, though?

Why Question Mark Represents Confusion Questions And Aim; assimilation psychology

​Jean Piaget initially proposed the idea of ​assimilation psychology. Piaget claimed that assimilation is a part of human psychology that is particularly important during the formative years of childhood. This is how children learn to react to social queues and how certain aspects of the world work.

How Does Assimilation Psychology Work?

Assimilation psychology, according to Piaget, is the easiest way that people adapt to new experiences.

The reason assimilation is believed to be the easiest is because it requires very little adjustment. In this method of adaptation, we simply apply new knowledge to that which is already known. Because it has to fit with what is currently known, though, how we adapt is based entirely upon our current state of mind.

For example, let’s say that your co-worker has a son who seems well adjusted and kind. One day, though, you see the boy at a local park throwing rocks at a bird’s nest.

To you, this behavior seems very out of character. Your co-worker has always bragged about their child’s sensitivity and and care and concern for animals and other people, but today he seems to be trying to harm animals.

Assimilation psychology takes place in how we process this information.

If you already have doubts about your co-worker’s honesty, you might determine that they have overinflated the good merits of the child. If you trust your co-worker, you might determine that the child is simply having a bad day or has picked up a bad habit by observing another child.

You might even work out that the child is still very kind and well-mannered, but simply has a mischievous aspect of his personality. In this case, you could find the behavior funny because it is so out of character that it is almost endearing.

This is how adaptation works based on our previous knowledge or experiences.

We take what we already know and add new information to the mix. It becomes a clue, rather than a whole new perspective. If we determine that the child is mean and that he is conning everyone including his mom, though, we are creating a completely new idea. This is a process known as accommodation.

Examples of Assimilation in Society

To further explore assimilation psychology, we need to look at a few more examples. They are as follows:

A baby tries lemons for the first time.


Imagine it’s a baby’s first birthday. They have previously tried all kinds of fruit- watermelon, strawberries, grapes, and bananas are their favorite. They have learned by trying these fruits that fruit is sweet and delicious.

Then, Uncle Mike shows up at the party. Uncle Mike has no children and makes a habit of using his nieces and nephews for a chuckle. He decides to pull a lemon slice from the pitcher of lemonade and let baby have a try, knowing the sour flavor of the fruit will give them an adorable pucker. Naturally, the ploy is successful.

The baby has now learned that not all fruits are sweet. They might also have learned to never trust food from Uncle Mike.

A child meets an angry dog.

Angry dog

Now imagine a little girl named Sophie. She has always been around dogs. Her parents have two large German Shepherds who do very well with her. Her grandpa has a Chihuahua who is also very mellow and child- friendly and Aunt Ellen has a cocker spaniel.

She’s learned from her exposure to these dogs that sometimes dogs bark a lot and sometimes they don’t bark at all. She’s also learned that they can come in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and coat lengths.

One day, Sophie is playing outside when a man walks his dog past. The dog begins snarling and growling and attacks the fence. He is very scary.

Sophie has now learned that some dogs are not friendly.

A woman discovers a country music CD in her rocker husband’s car.


This is a tricky one. One day, Karen gets into her husband’s car because hers is not running properly. As she pulls out of the driveway, she decides to turn on the radio and is instantly met with the sound of country music.

She checks the radio station, but discovers that she is actually listening to a CD. She is somewhat baffled. She has always known her husband to enjoy heavy metal and rock music. In fact, she met him in a mosh pit. It is out of his usual character to enjoy country music.

This can go one of two ways, depending on the history of the marital couple. If her husband has previously been unfaithful, she might immediately assume that he has been driving around a secret partner in his car.

If they have never encountered any issues before, she will probably just assume that he has learned to like a new kind of music or that he has always been a secret country music fan.

​These Are Both Examples of Assimilation Psychology


Everyday Assimilation Psychology

Piaget described processes where we learn and grow, adapting to our environment, socially and physically. He names these processes assimilation. In this process, the experience is brought in from the outside into the inside without interrupting our pre-existing ideas. This works especially well when the new item is an additional item of something we are familiar with. The process can be useful but sometimes it results in squeezing reality to fit.

The internal world has to change in response to new factors that are introduced.  This can be harder, especially in adults because it may mean changing something vital about something someone has always taken for granted. An example of this is the belief in the sanctity of marriage and moving toward divorce. The term for this is cognitive dissonance. He stated that it is not doable to hold two incompatible ideas in your head at the same time. A great way we see this carried out in real life is by having a firm belief that it is wicked to kill, yet being forced to become a soldier.

Assimilating the Internet

For anyone below midlife age, the use of the World Wide Web as the definition for all things both essential and trivial is taken for granted. The interwebs sit waiting for us to consult its seemingly-endless, virtual pages on all things from lists. to serious help to understand anything history to science. Social media allows us to connect with our family and what we now call “friends” and buying sites allow the whole world purchasing to be closer to us than our nearest mall.

For those over middle age, we have had to assimilate the internet into our lives as a tool for everyday activities: research, social interaction, and shopping.  Before it existed, we had to ask encyclopedias, annual collections of trivia, and the television for information to study. For reaching out to friends and family, we would use the house phone or wrote a letter. Shopping was done in person, always.  There will be very few people who will regret the passing of snail mail) or the limited options of strip mall shopping. The introduction of the internet has been one assimilation that has been easy and enjoyable.

This is an illustration of assimilation because though while the way we use the internet to carry out these parts of our lives, the basic concepts of studying, interacting, and shopping have not changed.

Final Thoughts on Assimilation Psychology

Understanding assimilation psychology is vital in realizing why we do the things we do as a culture. Assimilation is the reason for so much of the everyday pushback we naturally have to changes.

The Dangers of Self-Diagnosing Personality

Thanks to self-help books, and increasing open discussions revolving around mental health and personality disorders, many people fall into the trap of self-diagnosis. Although there is nothing wrong with being curious about self-exploration, and looking for answers online, it doesn’t make one an instant expert on personality disorders.

The human mind is a continuing subject of focus, intently studied by medical professionals and scientists. Despite the plethora of information online, there is still limited and ongoing studies about the causes and available treatments for various mental disorders.

One thing that makes self-diagnosing personality so dangerous is that people armed with little to no working knowledge of psychology and mental disorders, can and do quickly conclude the state of their mental health or others. Pointing out oneself or others as being OCD, bipolar, or manic without a certified diagnosis by a professional, can be very damaging.

At times, some people may feel that they do have a mental or physical illness which needs a professional diagnosis. If a person chooses to self-diagnose their believed condition, they might end up self-medicating, misdiagnosing themselves, or go untreated for whatever illness they may have.

Although there is helpful information online to guide seekers in the right direction, a self-diagnosing personality left unchecked can be a source of problems.

Some common symptoms that may be a sign of a mental or physical illness, which can lead to a misdiagnosis without professional assessment include:

  • Feeling fatigued most of the time
  • Plagued by headaches
  • Difficulty being around loud noises or bright lights
  • Auditory or physical hallucinations

At first glance, these symptoms could be the result of mental illness. But they could also be brought about by stress, exhaustion, or another valid reason.

However, only a trained and certified medical professional can accurately assess what a patient’s problem may be.

What Are The Dangers of Self-Diagnosing Personality?

Dangers of Self-Diagnosing Personality
Photo credit to The Pitt News

Although the internet is a fascinating place filled with information on everything possible, not all sites can be trusted. Some websites can misinform, or prey on people’s fears for clicks. Anyone who solely trusts whatever information they discover online, without taking it with a grain of salt, may end up believing that are fully capable of self-diagnosing without error.

When browsing the web for answers, it is important to find sources which use information sourced from journals, medical schools, or professional organizations. Ultimately, it is crucial that professional assessments are used to uncover whether there is indeed a mental or physical illness present.

According to various studies, only about 50% of people discuss their online search findings with their doctor. Many people are willing to believe what they learn from their search results and are not often willing to consult another source to fact-check.

When people have a self-diagnosing personality, they may take specific actions that can prove risky. After making a self-assessment and declaration of a perceived specific medical or mental condition, it can lead to the following.

  • An attempt may be made to cure the problem of dietary changes or taking medication
  • The self-diagnosing person may follow a treatment plan that is not needed or helpful
  • Self-diagnosing personality can lead to seeking unorthodox treatments to cure their believed problem
  • Avoidance of medical professional guidance and treatment may follow
  • Untreated and undiagnosed mental or physical problems can lead to other related health ailments, or become worse
  • A firm belief that the self-diagnosis is infallible and no second opinion is needed may occur

Self-diagnosing personality can prove hazardous because it leads to an assumption that enough information is known to declare a status. Having a limited amount of information, and overconfidence about the level of knowledge needed to diagnose correctly can lead to ignoring, or completely passing over nuances of certain mental or physical conditions.

It can become easy for self-diagnosing personality types to incorrectly asses specific medical ailments as a psychiatric problem. As an example, cardiovascular system problems that lead to irregular heartbeats might be self-diagnosed as a panic attack disorder.

Sometimes tumors can lead to personality changes, which may lead to self-medication with over-the-counter drugs, or other temporary solutions.

So Why Are People Prone To Self-Diagnosing Personality?

Borderline Personality Disorder
Photo credit to Optimum Performance Institute

Conversations about mental health and physical ailments can be quite the hot topic. However, due to stigma, or reliance on the internet, many people turn to self-diagnosing.

According to sources like Wikipedia, the term cyberchondria, or ‘compucondria’ has developed in today’s modern society. This term is used to define deeply unfounded concerns about symptoms, after a review of internet searches and literature has been read online.

Many healthcare professionals have become leery of patients who feel that they are expert enough to self-diagnose any perceived illness or disease. And these patients may often exhibit anxiety over their conclusions. According to CBS, over a third of Americans choose to go online to uncover the cause of their health condition, versus seeking the advice of a medical professional first.

Sometimes, after receiving a negative diagnosis from a medical professional, patients may feel anxious, devastated, or desperate for a second opinion. Negative experiences with medical professionals can also contribute to self-diagnosis personality. After all, some people feel like only they can know themselves best.

On further diagnosis, many patients may find that their self-diagnosis completely missed the mark, or was not as bad as previously thought.

Undermining The Authority of Medical Professionals

Undermining The Authority of Medical Professionals
Photo credit to Medscape

Doctors take an oath to look out for the well-being of their patients with a commitment to ethics within their practice. After spending so many years learning the ins-and-outs of their profession, it can be more than challenging interacting with a self-diagnosing personality.

When a person feels that they have enough understanding to diagnose their health after browsing the web, it can create unbalance and distrust within a doctor and patient relationship. Trust is essential to deriving an accurate diagnosis of an ailment.

It is vital that a doctor respect the patient’s opinion, and be open to a discussion surrounding the facts of a mental and physical health diagnosis and treatment plan.

There are many occasions where the symptoms of one health condition, such as anxiety, may be present alongside another condition like depression. Someone with a self-diagnosing personality is usually unable to discern accurately what a patient is dealing with or may think that there is a problem that in fact doesn’t exist.

Worrying about a health condition that doesn’t even exist, at times may be even worse than a misdiagnosis.

Seeking out a knowledgeable professional that can be trusted, and is willing to assess and treat both mental and physical health problems respectfully is valuable. The internet may be a significant source of information, but a one-on-one interaction between a doctor and patient can better surmise a proper diagnosis.

Embracing Positive Steps And Getting Professional Help

Embracing Positive Steps And Getting Professional Help
Photo credit to Healthline

People may choose to self-diagnose because of embarrassment about their symptoms, they don’t want to spend on medical expenses, or they are in denial. No matter the reason, self-diagnosis may lead to more harm than good.

Choosing to get a second opinion from a trusted medical professional is the only way to gain more clarity on one’s mental and physical health.

An incorrect diagnosis can lead to taking the wrong form of treatment, development of anxiety or depression over a believed condition which may not even exist, and avoidance of necessary treatment.

All sites do not provide the most accurate information on human health, and questionable websites that lack affiliation with a medical or healthcare institution should undergo some scrutiny.

There is nothing wrong with being curious and having a desire to learn more about the health symptoms that may cause some alarm. However, immediately applying whatever little information learned online, as a succinct and complete diagnosis is problematic.

When receiving a professional assessment for diagnosis, patients should look for their health care provider to commit to doing a few key things.

Any relevant information regarding a patient’s lifestyle, significant changes, and other pertinent details may be needed.

Standard tests used to measure the quality and impact that specific symptoms may have, and overall mental and or physical health.

Upon diagnosis, the patient should receive comprehensive information regarding treatment options, and conclusive findings.

An opportunity to discuss any information found online should be made available, to clarify any misinformation, and to acknowledge proactivity of patient for greater self-awareness.

The medical professional should set a tone that seeks to establish a relationship built on trust, mutual respect, and open discussion.

Leave The Final Diagnosis To The Professionals

People who have self-diagnosis personality are more likely to self-medicate, and obsess over the anxieties of their perceived health condition. Sometimes self-diagnosing types can develop the symptoms of their believed state, leading to even more problems when a professional finally gets involved.

When in doubt, it is best to get a second opinion from a valid certifiable source and let the medical professionals do their job. Self-diagnosis personality can lead to risky behavior, damaging name-calling, and rampant misinformation.

AP Psychology Study Resource: Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning theory can be broken down into two specific branches: social cognitive theory and cognitive behavioral theory.

Both concepts consider the brain to be an information processor and concentrate on how we learn and the specific processes that are going on in the brain when we learn.

What Is Cognitive Learning Theory?

cognitive theory

In psychology, cognitive learning involves studying perception, memory, attention and focus, language, problem-solving and learning. Its focus is thinking.

In 1948, an American Psychologist, Edward Tolman challenged the behaviorist theories that were dominant at the time that stated our thought processes were governed by our environment.

Tolman believed that the brains of people, and animals, worked as information processors much like our present-day computers. He gave us the term cognitive map to describe the process of taking external stimuli and internalizing it to form a mental image in our minds.

He also further developed the theory of latent learning, which is learning that is not displayed at the time of teaching but is visible at a later point.

Tolman’s Work with C.H. Honzik

Tolman and Honzik conducted experiments with rats placed in mazes to prove Tolman’s theory of latent learning. They created three groups with the rats and gave one group a reward (food) when the rats reached the end of the maze.

The rats in the second group were given delayed rewards: for the first 10 days when they reached the end of the maze, they were taken out. From day 11 through to day 17, when they reached the end of the maze, they were given a reward.

The rats in the third group were never given rewards but were taken out of the maze when they reached the end.

Their results found that the second group of rats – those that received delayed rewards – formed a cognitive map of the maze from day 11 through to 17, because they had a goal (reward) to aim for. During days one to ten, they took longer to reach the end of the maze.

This proved that during the second part of the experiment, the rats were actively processing the information they had gathered during the first part of the experiment to get to the end of the maze, and receive the reward, quicker.

The Brain as a Computer

Brain as a Computer

The computer analogy is the term the cognitive psychologists use to compare the human brain to a computer’s processing system. This information processing approach works with the following assumptions.

  • Environmental information is processed in the brain by a series of processing systems. We know these systems as attention and focus, perception, and short-term memory.
  • The brain’s processing systems alter the environmental information.
  • Cognitive learning research is conducted to better understand the processes that drive our cognitive performance.
  • Our brain’s information processing systems work in the same way as a computer’s processing systems. Studying how a computer works will help us to understand how our brains work.

Social Cognitive Theory

Social Cognitive Theory

Social cognitive theory is comprised of three variables: behavioral, environmental or extrinsic, and personal or intrinsic factors. Learning occurs when these three factors interact with each other in certain ways.

  • Personal-environmental – our beliefs, ideas and thought processes can be modified by our parents’ influence, stressful environments, and even the climate we live in.
  • Personal-behavioral – our thought processes affect our behavior and our behavior can affect the way we think.
  • Environmental-behavioral – the way we display our behavior can be affected by our environment and our behavior can alter our environment.

The above model emphasizes that if we are to learn we need positive personal traits, a supportive environment and we need to display appropriate behavior. It also suggests that our learning occurs when we compare past experiences with our current situation.

The Basic Concepts of Social Cognitive Theory

These basic concepts apply to adults, infants, children, and adolescents.

    • Observational learning – we learn by watching others and mimicking their behavior.
    • Reproduction – putting people in a comfortable environment, with all the tools and materials they need, will help them to retain, recall, and reproduce behavior.
    • Self-efficacy – the learner takes what he has learned and then improves it by practicing and using the learned the information.
    • Emotional coping mechanisms – people who can manage negative emotions well and deal effectively with stress are in the best position to learn new information.
  • Behavior regulation – learning is affected by a person’s ability to control their own behavior, particularly in a stressful environment.

Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Cognitive Behavioral Theory

Cognitive Behavioral Theory, developed by Aaron Beck, states that a person’s behavior is determined by their thoughts and that their thoughts can be affected by their environment. Beck used the cognitive triad to explain his theory.

Beck termed the Cognitive Triad, also known as the negative triad, to describe the interaction between negative thoughts about the self, the world, and the future. These elements are commonly found in people experiencing depression and are often considered to be automatic responses for sufferers.

Beck believed that the interaction of these three components, alter a person’s cognitive processing to the point that memory, problem-solving, and perception become obsessively negative.

Negative Self-schemas and Cognitive Distortions

According to Beck, negative self-schemas develop when a child is exposed to traumatic experiences such as the death of a parent or sibling, parental neglect, abuse, criticism, and/or overprotection, and bullying or exclusion from peer groups. These experiences lead the brain to form a schema that is negative and pessimistic which is carried into adulthood.

Cognitive distortions develop because of negative self-schemas and Beck believed that people suffering from depression had adopted the following illogical thinking processes.

  • Arbitrary interference – this is the process of drawing conclusions without evidence. For example, a person may think they are worthless if an outdoor event they were going to was cancelled due to bad weather.
  • Selective abstraction – this can be described as a person focusing on one aspect of a situation and not seeing the bigger picture. An example of this would be a person blaming themselves for the failure of a team effort.
  • Magnification or catastrophizing – making a mountain out of a molehill. If a person makes a small mistake in performing a task, they assume they are completely useless at all related tasks.
  • Minimization – a person may be praised for something but shrugs it off as nothing. It’s an inability to see your own skills and talents.
  • Personalization – this is when a person assumes that the negative feelings of others are their fault, despite having no evidence that points to this.

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Cognitive Behavior and Learning

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Cognitive Behavior and Learning

Cognitive learning theories are easy for us to understand. We know that our cognitive abilities make things happen such as advances in science and technology, therefore it makes sense that negative cognitive learning will increase negative situations.

Cognitive theories can be tested with appropriately designed experiments with real human participants although the ethics of these experiments need to be closely monitored. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective treatment for depression as it involves challenging negative self-schemas. It has also been effective for helping people with mild to moderate anxiety.

Further study needs to be conducted to determine whether cognitive distortions cause psychopathology or if they are a result of it. Cognitive theories are also limited in what they cover as there is much more to a person than just their thoughts.

Cognitive psychologists are often focused on research to find cures for such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Depression. Other psychologists treat patients directly with cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on changing the self-schemas that people have developed, often from childhood.

As technology continues to develop and computers become more advanced than we ever imagined, it’s reasonable to assume that our understanding of our brain’s informational processes will advance in tandem.

When you consider how much we have learned since 1948, when Edward Tolman challenged the behaviorists belief that we are the passive receivers of outside information, the future of cognitive learning research looks brighter.

We now know that we use far more than 10% of our brain, but there are still more secrets of cognitive learning and our brains informational processes that we haven’t uncovered yet.