The lack of sleep
The emphasis on the lack of sleep and its repercussions for a person’s well-being is a point of the chapter that draws particular attention. Specifically, the correlation between sleep disruption and ensuing psychological drawbacks is worthy of notice since it implies that all people operate on the same sleep-wake cycle (Hawkes Learning Systems [HLS], 2020). However, numerous jobs and occupations require personnel to restrict their sleep. With time, their circadian rhythm seems to adapt to the constant sleep deficit because they learn to recuperate within the restricted sleep time they have. It might even turn out that the body does not need so much sleep in the first place. Besides, the chapter also mentions the limited research proving energetic recovery during sleep. Furthermore, a person can sleep for a small number of hours and still feel rested. It might be feasible to suggest that only the REM period actively contributes to recovery, making the other stages obsolete.
Another interesting implication is derived when discussing the altered state of mind. One of the ways to accomplish it is through the consumption of drugs. Substances chemically affect the brain leading to the high release of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. Nevertheless, the effect the substances have on the body varies from person to person. While to some people caffeine gives an immediate boost of alertness, others are minimally affected to the point that they can even fall into sleep after consuming caffeine. Moreover, there is another state of mind that is intermediate between sleep and wakefulness. As it is written in the chapter, they can be triggered by meditation and hypnosis. While not chemically induced, they still do not constitute a normal unaltered state. The subsequent implication is that hypnosis and meditation are the socially acceptable equivalent of drug consumption.
Learning is the central topic of the chapter, and one of the possible methods of applying scientific research to the real world uses Pavlov’s approach to explain how the mind and body memories work. The theory implied that using external stimuli, it is possible to elicit unconscious reactions in animals, as well as humans (HLS, 2020). The usage of conditioning is intrinsically linked to associative learning. While the experiment itself focused more on creating a physical response, it might be possible to extrapolate it to mental learning. For instance, associations are considered to be an efficient technique to memorize foreign languages, especially lexicons. If the mind learns better through constant repetition then a language learner should constantly operate in surroundings that trigger the desire to memorize vocabulary.
A different approach to learning is represented by operant conditioning. Its basic premise is that fulfilling a wish produces more desire to do that again. It does explain many of everyday activities – why people go to work, study, and entertain themselves. However, there are also numerous examples when people do not associate their job with the desired result. Even a paycheck does not constitute what should be a positive reinforcement. Nevertheless, many people do not end their employment even though they feel disdain for their work. It can probably be explained by fear of “negative punishment,” but they are free to leave the job (HLS, 2020, p.207). If not staying in that position brings more enjoyment, would that not mean that they would change jobs, according to the theory?
The concept of intelligence
The chapter delves into the concept of intelligence, raises the question regarding its origins, capacity, and measurement of human capabilities to think. An especial notice goes to the long-existent dilemma over the nature of intelligence. Is intellectual potential genetically predisposed, or can it be expanded despite the initial limitations? The section about IQ measurement mentions the study of children with exceptionally high IQ indicators. Their findings indicated that genetically gifted children achieved significant success in their lives and careers. While it does support the genetics hypothesis, it should also be noted that the conclusion was drawn based on the majority of study subjects. Most likely, there were also children with high IQ that did not satisfy the expectations. It would seem that genetic predisposition plays a role, yet the overall performance is determined by the conscious efforts to learn and grow internally. It also means that children on the other side of the spectrum (with weak cognitive abilities) can succeed through willpower and learning techniques. After all, the only advantage that talent offers is faster learning, not the knowledge itself.
The chapter also introduced a discussion point on the reasons for the poor performance of representatives of economically impoverished regions in IQ tests. First of all, as was mentioned in the chapter, the text itself was structured to analyze Caucasian American children. Applying the same metrics to those who have African origin neglects the specifics of their historical circumstances. This leads to the second point – humans pass on traits that prioritize survival, using genes. It is possible that the search for creative solutions was not prevalent in maintaining public security in Africa, while Western society produced a much higher demand for creativity. Therefore, the disparity between IQ test results can be explained genetically.
Exploration of memory
This chapter goes into an in-depth exploration of memory, its characteristics, and various ways of extracting dormant memories. The idea of false memories deserves a special notion, because it showcases humans as unreliable narrators, especially in court. The story about sniper shootings in D.C. and their consequent investigations displays the limited capacities of the human mind to recall events accurately. Specifically, when the information about a suspected vehicle of criminals was broadcasted, presumed eyewitnesses reported sighting of similar vans, which had no relevance to the actual event. What is noteworthy is that false testimonies were not a result of failed memories, but rather the consequence of constant media repetition. It is known that it is possible to trick the mind into believing by employing constant repetitions. This could explain why there were so many vehicle sightings despite its complete irrelevance.
Another mechanism the human mind is suggested to employ is the repression of memories. The chapter mentions traumatic events survivors who were not able to recall the event itself. It appears that the mind is trying to isolate pain by removing it from active memories. While a victim is not consciously aware of the existing trauma, it still affects their mental health. For instance, rape victims may experience stress, depression, exhibit distrustful behavior. In some cases, they commit the crime that they had been subjected to in the past. It can be interpreted as an unconscious attempt to resolve the psychological issue that the unconscious mind chose to repress.
Motivation and emotions
This chapter focuses on motivation, emotions, and their influence on human behavior. The first section describes the connection between personal interests and job satisfaction. Sometimes people turn their hobbies into work and feel so overwhelmed with their favorite activities that they no longer associate them with pleasure. This phenomenon is attributed to the overjustification effect; however, it can also be affirmed by another concept (HLS, 2020). Job dissatisfaction originates due to the law of diminishing returns. The more positivity the mind derives from an activity, the less rewarding the experience becomes. This rule applies to any sphere of life, including work, and manifests itself in negative motivation. The experience was enjoyable in the first place because it was novel and limited. The mind responds positively to novelty, as it leads to the release of dopamine into the bloodstream. To reinvigorate interest in work, it might be helpful to add new stimuli that would renew motivation.
The fourth section covers emotions and the sources of their emergence. One of the theories exploring the nature of emotions suggests physiological arousal as the primary causative factor. This implies that emotions are just reactions to the surroundings and do not possess meaning themselves. For instance, turbulence during a flight on the plane can trigger a physical response in the form of rising temperature, higher pulse, and rapid breathing. These reactions are typical of nervousness, as well as excitement. By relying on physiological reactions, it might be possible to trick the brain into the needed state or adjust one’s emotional condition. It can prove to be valuable in becoming aware of one’s emotions and learning to control them.
This chapter examines personality and multiple theories exploring the depths of the human psyche. Sigmund Freud pioneered the field of exploration of the human mind. His followers developed his ideas further, with Carl Jung being one of them. Trying to explain the drastically different behaviors of humans, he conjured up the theory, according to which most people can be characterized as extroverts and introverts. This is a debated issue, which has become prominent in the last decades. One of the discussion points is the evaluation of psychological type – by what criteria should people be measured? Besides, a significant proportion does not fall strictly within one or the other category. There is even a term that describes a person who is prone to both extroverted and introverted behaviors – an ambivert. Therefore, Young’s theory is not exhaustive as it focuses on the general depiction of possible attitudes to life.
Julian Rotter introduced another controversial distinction in his concept of locus of control. The general idea revolved around the thesis that people who attribute their successes and failures to their actions are more successful in life than those who blame the circumstances. While it does have merit in terms of taking responsibility for one’s actions, it also opens up the possibility of developing a sense of condescension. Denying that external factors play a role in life events can lead to an arrogant worldview and inadequate evaluation of personal skills and capabilities. Putting that into consideration, the external locus of control also has values and should not be discredited.
Americans have developed a predisposition to the internal locus of control owing to the circumstances within which their nation was formed. Around the time North America appeared on the maps, it was viewed as a prospective land for settlers and entrepreneurs. The nature of business presupposes self-sufficient planning and reliance on one’s resources. Therefore, an individualistic mindset was formed that overestimated the personal factor. Americans developed a culture based on individuality, and a large proportion of its self-help industry focuses on personal striving, ambitions, and successes. It propagates the message of personal responsibility for one’s life and, subsequently, devalues the outside input.
While studying the results of various social experiments like Asch’s and Milgram’s, the initial goals of these studies should be taken into consideration. For instance, Stanley Milgram intended to ascertain why ordinary people committed vile acts during the Holocaust. No participants were aware of the identity of the supposedly tortured person. It caused objections as the Nazi people accused of crimes had been reported to harbor resentment towards genocide victims. In comparison, the study’s volunteers had no ethnic or political bias, thus making the validity of conclusions questionable.
Another aspect that should be taken into account is social pressure. Although it might seem inappropriate to compare Germans under the Nazi to the contemporary population, the social force that drives individuals to comply with the majorities’ opinion is the same. Brainstorming is a common technique used in modern education that teaches individuals to work collectively and produce ideas. Unfortunately, it serves as an example of individuals facing group pressure to which they choose to conform. Whether it is a German who went along with the Nazi policies or a student who did not voice his disapproval of the class discussion, they both exemplify the power of society over an individual. Considering this, it is essential to remember that group thinking is frequently flawed, and individual input should not be underestimated.
Stress is usually looked upon as a negative phenomenon that hinges the overall well-being. The typical advice to living a better life often comes down to mitigating stress levels, removing stress factors, and employing positive thinking. This is a mindset that has become incessantly popular over the last decades. The culture of positivity suggests denial as the primary source of stress management. It calls for suppressing negative emotions and artificially invoking positive ones. This approach misses a critical point that negative emotions are a completely natural response of an organism. It also applies to stress, which in reality, compels us to take action rather than ignore it.
The advent of technology has brought communication to the virtual dimension of social networks. Social media are a double-edged sword that can be both beneficial and harmful. Shy and reserved people can meet their communicational needs within the comfort of their own house. Internet users from far-flung corners of the world can communicate. It is now possible to make acquaintances, find like-minded communities, and even become employed using the Internet alone. However, the constant exposure to social media is also the other side of the coin. Everyone who follows a newsfeed is overwhelmed with stories, pictures, videos, and other content that shows life in bright colors. Willingly or not, people compare their lifestyle with the one on screen. It causes dissatisfaction, disappointment, fuels the sense of inadequacy, and leads to depression. This is why it is vital to differentiate between real and fake, what is authentic and what is insincere flaunting.
Due to the negativity of the term, psychological disorders are easy to misattribute. At some point, each person experienced a variety of emotions, including extremes like the strong joy of heavy sadness. Besides, culture heavily influences the way individual behavior is measured. Do these experiences characterize these people as suffering from psychological disorders? In the middle of the XX century, American children with introvert traits were considered abnormal. Some doctors even suggested using medication to lower shyness. Now, it is recognized as normal behavior of people who energize by spending time alone. Many job applicants undergo a selection process, which encompasses psychological evaluation. Successful candidates are presumably mentally strong and less prone to emotional breakdowns. Yet even the mentally strongest individuals can have suicidal thoughts. This suggests that everyone is at some risk of undergoing a psychological disorder.
There is one more point to consider when discussing the probability of experiencing a disorder. Most high-risk occupations require operating in hazardous environments, completing dangerous tasks, and putting lives in jeopardy. Naturally, the first and foremost requirement is stress resilience, and the ability to handle danger with minimal aftereffects to the psyche. The surprising correlation is that most people who choose to be soldiers, rescuers, firefighters, and other professions involving risk are unconsciously suicidal. Consciously they would not even contemplate ceasing their life, but their inner drive for risky activities compels them to engage in a work where a lethal outcome is a possibility. Whether it is a benign psychological disorder or simply the expectant attitude of such occupations is up to psychologists to decide. Nevertheless, it might explain the urge that many people possess for extreme activities.
The treating patients with psychological disorders
There are various approaches to treating patients with psychological disorders, yet it might be beneficial to combine methods of biomedical therapy and psychotherapy. Using medicine to cure a particular symptom can give a quick payoff since medication directly influences the chemical substances of the organism. Psychotherapy takes a far longer time and is dependent upon the willingness of the patient to change. Besides, non-medication treatment is too complicated to predict how the treatment will proceed due to the elusive nature of the human psyche. Medication treatment is more specific in what area is intended to be affected and what effect will be produced. Psychotherapy is better in the long term because it can address the issues that cannot be treated with substances – self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-expression.
Psychological disorders have a certain social stigma attached to them. People suffering from disorders are wrongfully called weak, although the disorders themselves do not relate to the strength of character. On the contrary, a person who found the willpower to consult a psychiatrist despite the social disapproval exhibits acceptance of their disadvantages. Unfortunately, this contempt stems from the fear of experiencing similar hardships. Contemporary society is used to the comfort zone, and it looks down upon any deviant behavior that can infringe upon it. This is not exclusive to psychological disorders as any health problem stirs feelings of inadequacy and leads to separating between healthy and ailing individuals. To change the belief, society has to become more aware and show more acceptance to its dysfunctional members.
Hawkes Learning Systems. (2020). Introduction to psychology [eBook edition]. Author.