Theories of Human Behavior



1. Define key elements of Freud's psychoanalytic theory (e.g. unconscious, conflict).

Psychodynamic theory assumes that behavior is controlled by unconscious motivations and internal forces of which we are unaware of but are the primary determinants of who we are and why we behave as we do. These primitive drives are associated with primary process thinking. Conscious motivation or thoughts that a person is aware of are secondary process thoughts and are logical, mature, and delay gratification.

Psychodynamic theory also assumes that conflict is inevitable due to the complexities of life. That is, there is always an internal conflict stemming from the unconscious and it is from how we cope with these conflicts that helps determine our identity and our behavior. The past, particularly childhood, has profound influence on adult behavior. Also, there are gender differences between how men and women experience their bodies.

2. Describe the relationship between the Id, Ego, and Superego.

The unconscious in psychodynamic theory is divided up into the Id, Ego, and Super-ego. The Id contains the basic needs and wishes and is ruled by the pleasure principle: “I want it all and I want it now!” The ego relates to the external world and operates by the reality principle: “You can’t always get what you want.” The ego functions to negotiate and compromise between the Id and the Super-ego and functions to include cognitions, relationships, and defenses.

3. Define the defense mechanisms (mature, neurotic, immature).

Because there is always internal conflict in our unconscious (love vs. hate, medicine vs. creative writing, gay vs. straight, donkeys vs. elephants), the Id impulses threaten to become overwhelming and increases anxiety. This anxiety can sometimes be manifested directly by panicking. The Ego must continually use defense mechanisms to keep the discomfort and anxiety of conflict in check. There are three classes of defense mechanism: mature, neurotic, and immature.

Mature defense mechanisms are the best mechanisms because the Ego tries to convert or satisfy an Id impulse by making it acceptable somehow either by sublimation, altruism, suppression, or humor. Sublimation is displacing the Id impulse into socially acceptable outlets (voyeurism to photography, sadism to surgery). Altruism is helping outers who feel similar to oneself but are less along in dealing with those feelings that oneself (leading support groups for breast cancer). Suppression is the conscious form of repression where information is consciously set aside at a particular time (“I can’t deal with my cancer Dx right now, I have to prepare for my son’s graduation”). Humor allows us to look directly at what is painful and express emotion without discomfort (“insert bad joke here”).

Neurotic defense mechanisms are basic mechanisms that are tend to be utilized frequently but are not as effective as mature mechanisms. Repression is the process by which painful thoughts or unacceptable impulses are buried from the consciousness. This is different than denial, which is a reaction to external danger, and suppression, which is a conscious effort of forgetting. Displacement is redirecting an emotion from its original object to a more acceptable substitute (Can’t hit the attending? Kick a dog!”). Reaction formation is the transference of repressed motives to their opposites (“Mark Foley”). Intellectualization is a means of sealing off emotions until only a cognitive component remains (“hide behind the technobabble!”). Somatization and Hypochondriasis are examples of emotions being translated into a physical symptom; somatization manifests as a general physical complaint while hypochondriasis manifests as a specific illness. Dissociation is the mental separation of part of the consciousness from reality.

Immature defenses are often used by adolescents and children as they learn to develop defense mechanisms but can be also be manifested in adults. Projection is the transfer of one’s own unacceptable impulses and desires away from oneself and attributed to another. //Regression is the return to an earlier stage of development and childish behavior.

4. Define transference and counter-transference and how they might affect the doctor-patient relationship.

Transference is the displacement of one’s feelings to a substitute object. This often happens in a psychoanalytical cure where a patient transfers feelings to the analyst that was previously directed at another object.

Counter-transference is the uncontrolled response of the analyst (doctor or person with authority) to the patient’s transference. This usually happens when the analyst does not come to terms with his/her own emotional baggage.

5. Define contiguity theory.

Contiguity theory is the connection between any stimulus and response in time and/or space will become associated. This can be through classical conditioning theory or operant conditioning theory. An example is if a baseball player wore a pair of socks and the one the game and begins to associate those pair of “lucky” socks with winning games. The stimulus of wearing the socks becomes associated with winning games.

6. Describe classical conditioning and understand the difference between "conditioned" stimulus and "unconditioned" stimulus.

An unconditioned stimulus elicits an unconditioned response. If a conditioned stimulus is applied initially, not response will occur. However, if the conditioned stimulus is paired with the unconditioned stimulus to elicit the unconditioned response for a while, the conditioned stimulus will be able to elicit that unconditioned response independently, converting it to a conditioned response.

Acquisition is the time/number of trials it takes for a conditioned response to be acquired. If the pairing of unconditioned stimulus and conditioned stimulus stops, eventually the conditioned stimulus will become extinct and no longer be able to elicit the conditioned response. Spontaneous recovery of the conditioned stimulus to elicit the conditioned response can occur. Pseudoconditioning is a conditioning that happens accidentally, usually in the context of trying to condition to some other stimulus. Over time, habituation occurs and the unconditioned stimulus becomes desensitized after repeated exposure.

Generalization is when a stimulus similar to the conditioned stimulus elicits the conditioned response (condition of mice with fear response can lead to all furry things eliciting the fear response). Higher order conditioning can occur when second, third or higher order conditioned stimuli becomes associated with the conditioned response until the higher order conditioned stimulus can independently elicit the conditioned response. If the order of conditioned stimuli becomes very high, it can be difficult to determine the original conditioned stimulus which initiated the conditioned response.

7. Identify psychiatric disorders/problems that stem from "classical" conditioning.

Phobias are conditioned negative responses that develop to stimulus that is excessive, generating an unreasonable desire to avoid the feared subject. When the fear is beyond one's control, or if the fear is interfering with daily life, then a diagnosis under one of the anxiety disorders can be made. Treated by desensitization.

Fetishes are conditioned positive responses that may be excessive or directed to socially inappropriate subjects. These can be treated and possibly directed in a more socially appropriate outlet.

8. Describe operant conditioning and the difference between operant behavior and conditioned behavior.

Operant conditioning is the modification of behavior by making the presence or absence of rewards or punishment contingent on what is done. Operant conditioning is distinguished from Classical conditioning in that operant conditioning deals with reinforcement of behavior that has already been voluntarily undertaken, while Classical conditioning is about presenting stimuli before action is taken.

In operant conditioning behavior is strengthened if followed by reinforcement and weakened if followed by punishment. Positive reinforcement occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by a favorable stimulus (commonly seen as pleasant) that increases the frequency of that behavior. Negative reinforcement occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of an aversive stimulus (commonly seen as unpleasant) thereby increasing that behavior's frequency. Positive punishment occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by an aversive stimulus, such as introducing a shock or loud noise, resulting in a decrease in that behavior. Negative punishment occurs when a behavior (response) is followed by the removal of a favorable stimulus, such as taking away a child's toy following an undesired behavior, resulting in a decrease in that behavior. Punishment is problematic because punished behavior is not forgotten, it's only suppressed. Punishment can create fear that can generalize to undesirable behaviors, e.g., fear of school. Punishment does not necessarily guide toward desired behavior, reinforcement tells you what to do, punishment only tells you what not to do.

9. Explain the schedules of reinforcement and give examples of each.

Continuous Reinforcement is reinforcing the desired response each time it occurs. Learning occurs rapidly and extinction occurs rapidly, for example vending machine and a parking meter.
Partial Reinforcement is reinforcing a response only part of the time. Learning occurs slowly and it shows resistance to extinction.
_Fixed Ratio Reinforcement_ is when behavior is reinforced only after the behavior occurs a specified number of times (the faster you respond, the more rewards you get)
Variable Ratio Reinforcement is when behavior is reinforced after an unpredictable number of times
like gambling (slot machine), fishing, pop quizzes. This conditioning is very hard to extinguish because of unpredictability resulting in steady responding.
Fixed Interval Reinforcement_ is when behavior is reinforced the 1st time it occurs after a fixed time interval resulting in the frequency of behavior increases when the time for reward draws near.
Variable Interval reinforcement_ is when behavior is reinforced the 1st time it occurs after an unpredictable amount of time has passed. Behavior tends to occur at moderate rates and without pause.

VR = Highest response rate
FR = Moderately high response rate
FI = Low rate of response
VI = Steady rate of responding, resistant to extinction

10. Identify psychiatric disorders/problems that stem from "operant" conditioning.

Depression and learned helplessness can result from lack of positive reinforcement and use of negative punishment in an inappropriate manor (abuse). Can be treated using Cognitive Behavior therapy to challenge distorted thinking brought about by conditioning.

11. Discuss how behavior might be changed using operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning can modify behavior by reinforcing actions that are judged good and punishing actions that are judged bad. The subject should seek reinforcement and avoid punishment by modifying its behavior.

12. Describe the basic principles of social learning theory.

Complex learning occurs through observation and modeling of behavior (e.g., surgery). People tend to model those who they like and respect, those they consider attractive or powerful, and those of the same gender or who they see as most like them. SLT states that behavior does not occur because of past reinforcement but due to anticipated future reinforcement. Anticipation is a cognitive process and this distinguishes SLT from classical and operant theories. People tend to model behaviors that are seen to have a positive outcome.

13. Compare and contrast the models of learning (psychoanalytic, behavioral, classic, and operant conditioning.)

Psychoanalytic model examines internal conflict that affect behavior while the other models involve external influence on behavior. Classical conditioning involves stimulus that occurs before the behavior while operant involves stimulus in response to the behavior. The social learning theory involves modeling and future stimulus in response to current actions.