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Faculty of Applied Social Sciences

Introduction to Psychology

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Asha Angela Bogenfurst
Dr Wong Huey Siew
Noor Hassline Mohamed

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Project Directors: Prof Dato’ Dr Mansor Fadzil
Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Ahmad
Open University Malaysia

Module Writers: Asha Angela Bogenfurst

Dr Wong Huey Siew

Noor Hassline Mohamed
Open University Malaysia

Moderator: Assoc Prof Dr Asmawati Desa

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Developed by: Centre for Instructional Design and Technology

Open University Malaysia

First Edition, December 2010

Second Edition, December 2011
Third Edition, December 2012 (rs)

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM), December 2012, ABPG1103

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any means
without the written permission of the President, Open University Malaysia (OUM).

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Table of Contents
Course Guide xi-xvi

Topic 1 Introduction 1
1.1 What is Psychology? 2
1.1.1 Subfields of Psychology 4
1.2 The Evolution of Psychology 7
1.2.1 Modern Perspective of Psychology 9
1.3 Psychology as Science 11
1.4 Ethics of Psychological Research 13
Summary 15
Key Terms 15
References 15

Topic 2 Biological Psychology 17

2.1 Defining Biological Psychology 18
2.1.1 How Do You Define Biological Psychology? 19
2.1.2 What Does Biological Psychology Study? 20
2.2 Neurons and Nerves 21
2.2.1 Basic Structure of Neurons 22
2.2.2 How Do Neurons Transmit Messages? 25
2.2.3 What is a Nervous System? 27
2.3 The Brain and Its Functions 30
2.3.1 What are the Main Components of the Brain? 33
2.3.2 Split Brain Phenomenon 36
2.4 The Endocrine System 36
2.4.1 Endocrine System and Hormones 38
2.5 Genetic 40
2.5.1 Psychological Explanation at the Gene Level 40
2.6 Genetics: Direct and Indirect Influences 45
Summary 46
Key Terms 47
References 48

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Topic 3 Sensation & Perception 49

3.1 Definition of Sensation and Perception 50
3.2 Visual Perception 51
3.2.1 The Eyes 52
3.3 Auditory Perception 54
3.3.1 How We Hear 56
3.3.2 The Orienting Sense 57
3.4 The Olfactory System 59
3.4.1 How Do We Smell? 61
3.5 The Skin Senses and Perception 63
3.6 Taste Perception 65
Summary 69
Key Terms 70
References 71

Topic 4 Consciousness 72
4.1 What is Consciousness? 73
4.1.1 Altered States of Consciousness 76
4.2 Sleep 77
4.2.1 Stages of Sleep 81
4.3 Dreams 83
4.4 Hypnosis 84
4.5 Drugs 85
4.5.1 Drug Addiction 87
Summary 88
Key Terms 88
References 88

Topic 5 Learning 90
5.1 What is Learning? 90
5.1.1 Classical Conditioning 91
5.1.2 Operant Conditioning 94
5.2 Cognitive Learning 100
5.3 Observational Learning 101
Summary 103
Key Terms 103
References 104

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Topic 6 Memory 105

6.1 What is Memory? 106
6.2 Process of memory 107
6.3 Model of Memory 109
6.4 Forgetting 113
6.5 Improving Memory 116
Summary 118
Self Test 119
References 119

Topic 7 Thinking, Intelligence and Language 120

7.1 Thinking 120
7.1.1 How do we think? 121
7.1.2 Concepts 122
7.1.3 Problem Solving 123
7.1.4 Creativity 125
7.2 Intelligence 127
7.2.1 Theories of Intelligence 127
7.2.2 Intelligence Tests 131
7.3 Language 132
7.3.1 What is Language? 132
7.3.2 The Structure of Language 133
Summary 134
Key Terms 135
References 135

Topic 8 Developmental Psychology 136

8.1 Definition of Developmental Psychology 136
8.2 Issues in Studying Human Development 137
8.2.1 Research Methods in Developmental Psychology 138
8.3 Prenatal Development 139
8.4 Infancy and Childhood Development 141
8.4.1 Cognitive Development 142
8.4.2 Moral Development 143
8.4.3 Personality Development 144
8.5 Adolescence 146
8.6 Adulthood 147
8.7 Late Adulthood 148
Summary 150
Key Terms 150
References 150

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Topic 9 Motivation 152

9.1 What is Motivation? 153
9.2 Sources of Motivation 154
9.3 Theories of Motivation 155
9.4 Human Needs 157
9.4.1 Hunger Motivation 158
9.5 Losing Weight 160
9.6 Sexual Motivation 161
9.7 Abraham MaslowÊs View on Human Hierarchy Needs 162
9.8 Erg Theory of Human Needs 164
9.9 Achievement Needs 165
9.10 Employee Motivation 166
9.10.1 Two-factor Theory 167
9.10.2 Theory X and Y 167
9.10.3 Theory Z 168
9.10.4 Goals Setting Theory 169
9.10.5 Equity Theory 169
9.10.6 Expectancy Theory 169
Summary 170
References 171

Topic 10 Social Psychology 172

10.1 Social Influence: Conformity & Obedience 173
10.1.1 Conformity 173
10.1.2 Obedience 175
10.2 Social Cognition: Attitudes & Attribution 176
10.2.1 Attitudes 176
10.2.2 Attribution 177
10.3 Prejudice 178
10.3.1 Prejudice as a Special Type of Attitude 178
10.3.2 Why Does Prejudice Persist? 178
10.4 Interpersonal Attraction 180
10.5 Aggression 181
10.6 Rosocial Behaviour 183
Summary 185
Key Terms 186
References 186

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Topic 11 Personality 188

11.1 Definition of Personality 189
11.2 Psychodynamic Perspective 189
11.2.1 FreudÊs Psychoanalytic Theory 190
11.2.2 FreudÊs Psychosexual Stages 193
11.2.3 Karen HorneyÊs Feminist Psychoanalysis 195
11.2.4 Carl JungÊs Analytic Psychology 195
11.3 Learning Perspectives 197
11.3.1 Behaviourist Theories 197
11.3.2 Social-cognitive Theories 198
11.4 Humanistic Perspective 200
11.5 Trait Theories 202
11.6 Biological Perspective 204
11.6.1 Evolutionary Personality Theory 205
11.7 Personality Assessment 206
Summary 209
Key Terms 209
References 210

Topic 12 Psychological Disorders 211

12.1 What is Abnormality? 212
12.1.1 Models of Abnormality 214
12.2 Anxiety Disorders 215
12.2.1 Causes of Anxiety Disorders 216
12.3 Somatoform and Dissociative Disorders 217
12.3.1 Somatoform Disorders 217
12.3.2 Dissociative Disorders 218
12.4 Mood Disorders 219
12.5 Schizophrenia 220
12.5.1 Types of Schizophrenia 221
12.5.2 Causes of Schizophrenia 222
12.6 Personality Disorders 223
Summary 224
Key Terms 225
References 225

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Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)
You must read this Course Guide carefully from the beginning to the end. It tells
you briefly what the course is about and how you can work your way through
the course material. It also suggests the amount of time you are likely to spend in
order to complete the course successfully. Please keep on referring to Course
Guide as you go through the course material as it will help you to clarify
important study components or points that you might miss or overlook.

ABPG1103 Introduction to Psychology is one of the courses offered by Faculty of
Applied Social Sciences at Open University Malaysia (OUM). This course is
worth 3 credit hours and should be covered over 8 to 15 weeks.

This course is offered to all students taking the Bachelor of Psychology
programme. This module aims to introduce the general knowledge and basic
concepts in psychology and explain psychology as a study of human science.

As an open and distance learner, you should be acquainted with learning

independently and being able to optimise the learning modes and environment
available to you. Before you begin this course, please ensure that you have the
right course material and understand the course requirements as well as how the
course is conducted.

It is a standard OUM practice that learners accumulate 40 study hours for every
credit. As such, for a three-credit hour course, you are expected to spend 120
study hours. Table 1 gives an estimation of how the 120 study hours could be

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Table 1: Estimation of Time Accumulation of Study Hours

Briefly go through the course content and participate in initial
Study the module 60

Attend 3 to 5 tutorial sessions 10

Online Participation 12
Revision 15

Assignment(s) and Examination(s) 20


By the end of this course, you should be able to:
1. Explain the key areas of study in psychology;
2. Explain the subfields of psychology;
3. Discuss the basic concepts in psychology;
4. Compare different theories and approaches of psychology; and
5. Apply the scientific method in psychology.

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This course is divided into 12 topics. The synopsis for each topic can be listed as

Topic 1 begins with a discussion on the basic history of psychology, approaches

to psychology and ethics of psychological research.

Topic 2 introduces the field of biological psychology. It describes the link

between psychology and our biological systems (e.g. the central nervous system,
brain, and endocrine glands).

Topic 3 explores sensation and perception. It explains how we use our senses
(e.g. sight, smell, taste, touch, sound) to perceive the world around us.

Topic 4 discusses the subject of consciousness. Various states of consciousness

are discussed such as sleep, dreams, hypnosis and altered states of consciousness
induced by psychoactive drugs.

Topic 5 examines what is learning and how we learn.

Topic 6 explores memory. It describes models of memory, long term memory,

and the physical aspects of memory.

Topic 7 examines thinking, intelligence and language.

Topic 8 introduces the field of developmental psychology. It discusses issues in

human development from conception to old age.

Topic 9 examines motivation and emotion.

Topic 10 introduces the field of social psychology. It discusses social influence,

social cognition, prejudice, interpersonal attraction, aggression and pro-social

Topic 11 introduces the field of personality psychology. It discusses personality

from several perspectives (e.g. humanistic perspective, biological perspective)
and trait theories.

Topic 12 describes psychological disorders.

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Before you go through this module, it is important that you note the text
arrangement. Understanding the text arrangement will help you to organise your
study of this course in a more objective and effective way. Generally, the text
arrangement for each topic is as follows:

Learning Outcomes: This section refers to what you should achieve after you
have completely covered a topic. As you go through each topic, you should
frequently refer to these learning outcomes. By doing this, you can continuously
gauge your understanding of the topic.

Self-Check: This component of the module is inserted at strategic locations

throughout the module. It may be inserted after one sub-section or a few sub-
sections. It usually comes in the form of a question. When you come across this
component, try to reflect on what you have already learnt thus far. By attempting
to answer the question, you should be able to gauge how well you have
understood the sub-section(s). Most of the time, the answers to the questions can
be found directly from the module itself.

Activity: Like Self-Check, the Activity component is also placed at various

locations or junctures throughout the module. This component may require you to
solve questions, explore short case studies, or conduct an observation or research.
It may even require you to evaluate a given scenario. When you come across an
Activity, you should try to reflect on what you have gathered from the module and
apply it to real situations. You should, at the same time, engage yourself in higher
order thinking where you might be required to analyse, synthesise and evaluate
instead of only having to recall and define.

Summary: You will find this component at the end of each topic. This component
helps you to recap the whole topic. By going through the summary, you should
be able to gauge your knowledge retention level. Should you find points in the
summary that you do not fully understand, it would be a good idea for you to
revisit the details in the module.

Key Terms: This component can be found at the end of each topic. You should go
through this component to remind yourself of important terms or jargon used
throughout the module. Should you find terms here that you are not able to
explain, you should look for the terms in the module.

References: The References section is where a list of relevant and useful

textbooks, journals, articles, electronic contents or sources can be found. The list
can appear in a few locations such as in the Course Guide (at the References
section), at the end of every topic or at the back of the module. You are

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encouraged to read or refer to the suggested sources to obtain the additional

information needed and to enhance your overall understanding of the course.

No prior knowledge is required.

Please refer to myINSPIRE.

Ciccarelli, S. K., & White, J. N. (2009). Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Education, Inc.
Huffman, K. (2006). Living psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2008). Psychology: An introduction. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.


The TSDAS Digital Library has a wide range of print and online resources for the
use of its learners. This comprehensive digital library, which is accessible
through the OUM portal, provides access to more than 30 online databases
comprising e-journals, e-theses, e-books and more. Examples of databases
available are EBSCOhost, ProQuest, SpringerLink, Books24x7, InfoSci Books,
Emerald Management Plus and Ebrary Electronic Books. As an OUM learner,
you are encouraged to make full use of the resources available through this

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Topic  Introduction
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Describe what psychology is;
2. Identify the goals of psychology;
3. Explain the history of psychology; and
4. Compare the historical and modern perspectives of psychology.

Take a moment to think about how you would define psychology based on what
you know about psychology. When I tell people that I am a psychologist, I have
often received a response like „Can you read my mind?‰ So, let us clear things up
here a bit.

Psychologists do not read minds. However, they are deeply interested in the
study of the human mind, behaviour, feelings and thoughts. I have no doubts
that studying psychology leads to a better understanding of yourself and the
people around you. So, perhaps I understand why some people are intimidated
by this special „power‰ to understand human behaviour that psychologists are
thought to possess.

My point is that the field of psychology is a powerful force in our world today.
Everybody can find some practical use for the knowledge gained from
psychology. So think of your time here as an investment for your life and future

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In this topic, we will discuss:

Ć The definition of psychology;
Ć The evolution of psychology;
Ć Modern perspectives on psychology;
Ć Psychology as a science; and
Ć Ethics of psychological research.


Discuss with your coursemates the practical relevance that

psychology has in our daily lives.


What is psychology? Psychology is not just about abnormal behaviour and ways
to influence people. You will discover later in this module that psychology
covers a wide range of topics such as how people are able to perceive pain; the
significance of dreams; and whether chimpanzees can use language to
communicate with others. See Figure 1.1 for a humorous take on the world of

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Figure 1.1: Cartoon - World of psychology

Source: Rosenheim. Psychology Cartoons. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from

How do you define psychology? Psychology can be defined as the scientific

study of human and animal behaviour (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997).
Behaviour not only refers to the way in which people act, but also includes
anything a person or animal thinks and feels.

Why are so many people interested in psychology? Psychology is practical. It is a

field of study that everybody can apply to their everyday lives. For example, by
studying about how people learn, you might develop better study habits for
yourself. By studying about human behaviour, we might develop a better
understanding of ourselves and others. You might also find ways of modifying
undesirable behaviours such as overeating or smoking.

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The goals of psychology are as shown in Figure 1.2:

Figure 1.2: Goals of psychology

Let us look at the goals one by one.

(a) Describe Behaviour

By making careful scientific observations.

(b) Explain Behaviour

By conducting experiments to determine their causes.

(c) Predict Behaviour

When it will occur again in the future.

(d) Change Behaviour

Transform inappropriate behaviour.

1. What is the definition of psychology?
2. What are the goals of psychology?

1.1.1 Subfields of Psychology

As we discussed earlier, the field of psychology covers many different areas of
research. In this subtopic, we will discuss the different areas of research and
specialisation in psychology, as shown in Figure 1.3.

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Figure 1.3: Areas of psychology

Let us discuss the areas in more detail now.

(a) Clinical Psychology

Concerns treating people with mental health problems such as depression
and anxiety. Many people often wonder about the difference between a
psychiatrist and clinical psychologist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who
have specialised in psychiatry. They are licensed to prescribe medications
and drugs. Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, have received a
MasterÊs Degree or Ph.D. after studying human behaviour and methods of

(b) Educational Psychology

Describes how people learn and what teaching techniques work best.
Educational psychologists work to improve curriculum design, teacher
training, and other aspects of the educational process.

(c) Developmental Psychology

Concerns the cognitive, social, emotional and personality development
from birth to old age.

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(d) Social Psychology

Deals with human behaviour in group situations. Examples of popular
topics would be attitude formation, prejudice, and intimate relationships.

(e) Cognitive Psychology

Concerns the various mental processes involved in perception, learning,
memory and thinking.

(f) Industrial and Organisational Psychology

Is concerned with issues at the workplace such as selecting and training
staff, and improving productivity and working conditions.

(g) Physiological Psychology

Explores the biological basis of human behaviour, thoughts, and emotions.
Subfields of physiological psychology include biopsychology and
neuropsychology which deal with issues such as the effect of changes in
hormone levels on personality, and how recreational drugs affect people.

(h) Experimental Psychology

Is concerned with psychological processes such as learning, memory,
sensation, perception, cognition, motivation and emotion. Some examples
of the issues involved are why some people are more motivated than
others, and how people make decisions and solve problems.

(i) Counselling Psychology

Counselling is mainly, though not exclusively, listening-and-talking-based
methods of dealing with psychological and psychosomatic problems and
changes; deep and prolonged human suffering; situational dilemmas; crises
and developmental needs and aspirations towards the realisation of human

1. What kind of work do educational psychologists do?
2. What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a
3. Explain cognitive psychology in your own words.

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Since the time of Plato and Aristotle, people have wondered about human
behaviour. Hence, psychologyÊs intellectual parents were actually 19th century
philosophy and physiology, which shared an interest in the mysteries of the
mind (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008). IsnÊt it fascinating how psychology has
developed from philosophical speculations about the mind into a modern

Although Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was not a psychologist, he was responsible

for the idea that human behaviour and thinking might be a subject for scientific
inquiry. Before Darwin, people had considered themselves separate from all
other creatures, thus they also considered themselves to be above the law of
nature. Science was the study of the natural world. Hence, the study of humans
belonged to philosophy. Darwin argued that if we are the product of evolution
(see Figure 1.4), maybe we too are subject to the laws of nature, and thus can be
studied scientifically (Morris & Maisto, 2001).

Figure 1.4: The origin of the species

Source: (2008). Theory of Evolution [Photograph]. Retrieved October 19, 2010, from

During the early 1800s, scientific research into biology, chemistry, physics and
physiology was already enthusiastically pursued. However, it was not until 1879
that Wilhelm Wundt founded the first psychology laboratory; and psychology as
a science officially began. As interest in this new field grew, psychologists started

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to develop different approaches to their research. Eventually, these different

approaches came to be grouped into schools of psychology.

The earliest schools of psychology were „structuralism‰ and „functionalism‰.

Structuralism is concerned with the sensations and feelings of perceptual
experience (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997). In contrast, functionalism goes
beyond mere sensation and perception to explore how we learn to function in the
environment around us.

One of the significant luminaries in psychology is Sigmund Freud, who

developed a procedure called psychoanalysis for treating people with
psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. Freud was also
responsible for pioneering the concept of the unconscious. The unconscious
contains thoughts, memories and desires that are well below the surface of
conscious awareness, but which nevertheless plays a big role in how we behave
(Weiten, 2001). The objective of psychoanalysis is to bring the contents of the
unconscious to our conscious awareness.

In the 1950s, psychology finally became recognised as a profession. The practical

branch of psychology came to be known as applied psychology. It all started
during World War 1 (1914-1918), when intelligence testing was in high demand
for the assessment of military recruits (Weiten, 2001). Alfred Binet developed one
of the first useful intelligence tests.

John B. WatsonÊs view of psychology known as behaviourism was based on

experiments conducted by Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov noticed that his dogs would start
to salivate as soon as they heard the rattling of their bowls. So, he decided to find
out whether salivation (an automatic response) could be shaped by learning.
Pavlov found that all behaviour is a learned response to some stimulus in the
environment. He called this training classical conditioning. Watson confirmed
through his experiments, that humans as well as animals can learn new
behaviour through classical conditioning.

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Table 1.1 gives a brief explanation of the important events that took place in the
history of psychology.

Table 1.1: History of Psychology Timeline 1879 ă 1963

Years Important Events

1879 Wilhelm Wundt founded the first psychology laboratory in Germany. The event
is considered the starting point of psychology as a science.
1890 William James published Principles of Psychology, which later became the
foundation for functionalism (major school of psychology).
1900 Sigmund Freud published Interpretation of Dreams marking the beginning of
Psychoanalytic Thought.
1905 Alfred Binet's Intelligence Test was published in France.
1906 Ivan Pavlov published the first studies on Classical Conditioning (learning).
1912 Max Wertheimer published research on the perception of movement, marking
the beginnings of Gestalt Psychology.
1952 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was
published by The American Psychiatric Association marking the beginning of
modern mental illness classification.
1963 Lawrence Kolberg demonstrated the sequence of morality development.

Source: Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, (1997)


1. Describe the growth of psychology.

2. List two of Sigmund FreudÊs most important contributions to
3. Explain behaviourism in your own words.

1.2.1 Modern Perspective of Psychology

For many years, psychologists argued over the merits of the various approaches
to psychology. The various schools of psychology battled against one another.
Modern psychologists are less likely to support only one theoretical perspective
and deny the others. Rather, psychologists today prefer to see the various
perspectives as complimentary. Each approach contributes in its own way to our
understanding of human behaviour.

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Today, psychologists hardly talk about „schools of psychology‰ anymore. Most

psychologists today talk about six basic perspectives that influence the topics
psychologists study, how they conduct their research, and what information they
consider important (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997). The six basic
perspectives are, as shown in Figure 1.5:

Figure 1.5: The six basic perspectives

Let us now discuss the areas in more detail.

(a) Psychoanalytic
Focuses on the influence of the unconscious mind and early childhood
experiences to explain behaviour patterns and treat psychological
problems. The founder of the psychoanalytic perspective is Sigmund Freud.

(b) Behaviouristic
Focuses on how behaviours are learned and reinforced. It is also concerned
with changing behaviour through conditioning. John Watson and B.F.
Skinner are two of the main proponents of this approach.

(c) Humanistic
Focuses on peopleÊs feelings and realising human potential. It also
emphasises the role of motivation on thought and behaviour. Prominent
names known from this approach are Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

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(d) Cognitive
Focuses on mental processes such as thinking, feeling, learning,
remembering, making decisions and solving problems. Cognitive
psychologists are interested in how people process information, that is,
how they perceive, interpret and store it. This perspective is influenced by
psychologists like Jean Piaget and Albert Bandura.

(e) Biological
The emphasis is on behaviour as a result of chemical and biological
processes within the brain and nervous system. Issues concerning the effect
of hormonal changes, brain damage and drugs are central to this
perspective. Brain activity is directly observed by using tools such as MRI
scans and PET scans.

(f) Evolutionary
Focuses on the evolutionary origins of behaviour patterns and mental
processes, and examines the adaptive value they have and the functions
they serve. Issues such as mate selection, jealousy and altruism (helping
behaviours) are explored together with theories of how these patterns of
behaviours evolved.


The field of psychology is a powerful force in modern society and its influence is
widespread ă in advertising, marketing, law and the way in which we view the
world. So, the big debate has always been - is psychology a science?

Psychology by definition is the scientific study of human and animal behaviour.

The key words in this definition are scientific study. Although psychologists
sometimes study abstract subject matters such as the mind, they rely on a
scientific method when conducting research.

Psychologists, like all other scientists, methodically collect their data, then piece
it together little by little until they reach a conclusion. Psychologists must follow
systematic, scientific procedures when conducting research. These procedures
are referred to as research methodology (Gazzaniga & Heatherton, 2003).

All sciences share a common scientific method of research:

(a) They collect data through careful, systematic observation; and
(b) Attempt to predict what they have observed by developing theories.

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Thus, like all scientists, psychologists use the scientific method to describe,
understand, predict, and eventually to achieve some measure of control over
what they study.

Table 1.2 explains the advantages and disadvantages of the basic methods of
scientific research used in the various fields of psychology.

Table 1.2: Basic Methods of Psychological Research

Research Method Advantages Disadvantages

Naturalistic observation Produces more accurate The participantsÊ behaviour
Behaviour is observed in information as the may change because of the
the natural environment participants are in their presence of an observer; the
(where the behaviour natural environment and observer may be biased; the
occurs naturally). are acting spontaneously. observations made cannot
always be generalised.
Case studies Provide a lot of detailed The case study may not be
In-depth study of a personÊs information. Useful for representative of the general
or personsÊ behaviour. forming hypotheses. population. May need
additional time and money.
Surveys Yield a great deal of Participants may not
A standard set of questions information which is answer truthfully.
is asked of a large number collected quickly and Questions that are not
of participants. inexpensively. constructed clearly may
result in vague answers.
Correlational research Can make relationships Conclusions regarding
Uses statistical methods to between variables clearer. cause and effect
investigate the relationship Allows for prediction of relationships cannot be
between two or more behaviour. made.
Experimental research Conclusions regarding The artificial laboratory
One or more variables are cause and effect setting may affect
systematically manipulated, relationships can be made. participantsÊ behaviour.
and the effect of that Many variables cannot be
manipulation on other controlled and manipulated,
variables is studied. and these variables may
complicate results.

Source: Morris & Maisto (2001)

Some of the criticisms of psychology as a science is that psychological research lacks

external validity. Findings from experiments are not always supported by real life
observations. For example, experiments conducted in the laboratory may not reflect
real life observations. Psychological research also may lack internal validity. The

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observed effects may result from variables other than the ones used in the experiment.
For example, imagine that one study finds that stress is positively correlated with
heart disease. However, stress is definitely not the only factor that causes heart disease.
Therefore, the results may be influenced by the other factors/variables not taken into
consideration in the experiment (Davis and Palladino, 2000).

1. List some of the main points that support psychology as a science.
2. What are some of the criticisms of psychological research?


Almost all psychological research involves people and animals. Hence, it is
important to discuss the ethics of psychological research, as psychologists have a
responsibility to treat their research subjects ethically.

There are numerous cases in which psychological research has exploited the
rights of participants; for example, John WatsonÊs Little Albert experiment (see
Figure 1.6). In this experiment, Watson used classical conditioning to develop a
fear of furry little white rabbits in ÂLittle AlbertÊ, a one year old baby boy.
Imagine poor Albert having to grow up with a fear of furry little white rabbits.

Figure 1.6: Little Albert experiment

Source: Amyponder13. Little Albert Experiment [Photograph]. Retrieved October 19,
2010, from

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Another controversial experiment is Stanley MilgramÊs experiment. In his study,

Milgram led the participants to believe that they were administering shocks to
the learner for every mistake made. However, the learnerÊs role was actually
played by one of MilgramÊs accomplices pretending to be in pain. Deception is a
commonly used strategy in psychological research. However, critics pointed out
that MilgramÊs experiment was unethical because it led participants to believe
something that was not true. Furthermore, critics also pointed out that Milgram
should take responsibility for the guilt, inner conflict and stress that participants
went through in his experiment.

The reason deception is used in psychological research is because revealing the true
nature or objective of the experiment would cause participants to behave differently.
This is also known as the observer effect. When the subject is aware of being
observed, the subject might alter behaviours or act unnaturally. Hence, using
deception in research is acceptable, however, researchers are expected to follow strict
guidelines, which include debriefing participants at the end of the experiment.

What about using animals in psychological research? Is it ethical? In the past,

there has been research carried out in which electric shocks or some other type of
unpleasant treatment was administered to animals. However, such types of
experiments are rare. Almost 90% of the animals used are rats and mice.
Furthermore, there are often guidelines set by the animal care committees to
ensure the care and treatment of research animals (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).

The American Psychological Association (APA) code of ethics cites many

requirements for research, some of which are listed below:
(a) All participants must be clearly informed of the nature of the research.
(b) Informed consent should be signed by the participant.
(c) Risks and confidentiality issues must be clearly understood by participants
(Morris & Masito, 2001).

Finally, it is critical to remember while counselling psychotherapy patients that

the contents of discussion be kept strictly confidential in order to respect the
privacy of the client. The therapist also is not allowed to directly tell the patient
what to do or to give a biased response.

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1. In your opinion, was MilgramÊs experiment ethical? Give reasons
for your answer.
2. What do you think about using animals in psychological research?
Is it ethical? Discuss.

 Psychology can be defined as the scientific study of human and animal

behaviour (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997). Behaviour not only refers to
the ways which people act, but also includes anything a person or animal
thinks and feels.

 The goals of psychology are to describe, explain, predict and change


 Psychology has developed from philosophical speculations about the mind

into a modern science.

Ć Like all scientists, psychologists use scientific methods to describe,

understand, predict, and eventually, achieve some measure of control over
what they study. Hence, psychology is considered a science.

 The field of psychology covers an enormous diversity of topics. Some of the

subfields are clinical, educational, developmental, social and cognitive

Applied psychology Educational psychology

Behaviour Functionalism
Behaviourism Psychoanalysis
Clinical psychology Psychology
Cognitive psychology Structuralism
Developmental psychology Unconscious

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Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Prentice Hall.
Feltham, C., & Horton, I. (2006). The sage handbook of counselling and
psychotherapy (2nd ed.). London: Sage publications.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T .F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R. J., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology themes & variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

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Topic  Biological
2 Psychology
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define biological psychology;
2. Describe the structures and functions of neurons and nerves;
3. Explain the organisation of the nervous system – the Central
Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS);
4. Identify the main components of the brain regions and their
5. Discuss the functions of the endocrine system; and
6. Explain the genetic influence on human development from the
psychological perspective.

Before we proceed with the discussion on biological psychology, let us ponder on
the scenario below.

Azzyr: I sometimes find myself in a state where everything seems bright

and cheerful. But at other times (although nothing has changed), I find my
surroundings seem dark and dreary, and my family describe me as
„depressed‰ and „down‰. Why do I have such states of mind (moods or
feelings or dispositions), and what causes all these strange effects?

What is your opinion of this scenario? You may answer that AzzyrÊs state of
mind was a result of too much stress from thinking depressing thoughts.

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However, what is the internal aspect that may have caused AzzyrÊs thinking to
change from one state to another? What could have happened in his brain to
result in such changes in his thinking? We will discuss this matter further in the
next sub-topic.

In Topic 2, we will concentrate on the biological explanation. The discussion in

this topic is divided into four parts. The first will introduce you to neurons and
nerves, and their divisions and functions. In the second, we will explore the
brain, and its structure and functions. The third part will discuss the functions of
the endocrine system, while the last will look at how genes affect human

If we want to know ourselves, we need to know

what we are made of. We can, for example, drive a
car without knowing much about the engine and
absorbers. Similarly, we can deal with many human
problems without knowing anything about our
brain. But if we want to explain cars or human
behaviour, we need to know something about its
basic internal workings.


Basically, biological factors and the body do influence oneÊs behaviour, emotions
and cognition. Thus, biological psychology is a comprehensive study that
explores the functions of the brain and the nervous system in relation to

Have you ever wondered why twin siblings, as shown in Figure 2.1, can behave
differently despite living in the same house? In your opinion, is it genetic or
environmental factors that influence their behaviours?

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Figure 2.1: Twin siblings

It is important for us to recognise biological psychology as one of the significant

fields of psychology because understanding human or animal behaviour will
help us to further appreciate who we are as individuals. In order to understand
oneÊs behaviour and mental processes, we have to rely on the relationship
between psychological processes and the underlying physiological events.

2.1.1 How Do You Define Biological Psychology?

The term biology is derived from the Greek word bios meaning „life‰, and logos
meaning „study‰. Biology is thus the scientific study of living organisms.
Basically, biological psychology uses biology as an approach to understand
human and animal behaviours.

Biological psychology is defined as the study of behaviour and experience in

terms of genetics, evolution, and physiology, especially of the nervous system
(American Heritage Dictionary).

In other words, biological psychology is the scientific study that is primarily

concerned with the relationship between the psychological processes and the
underlying physiological events or, the mind-body phenomenon. Biological
psychology is also known as physiological psychology, psychobiology,
biopsychology or behavioural neurosciences.

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2.1.2 What Does Biological Psychology Study?

A biological perspective is relevant in the study of psychology in two ways, as
shown in Figure 2.2.

Figure 2.2: Ways to study biological psychology

Let us now study the two ways in greater detail.

(a) Physiological Aspects

Physiological aspects emphasise the function of the brain and the rest of the
nervous system in activities such as thinking, learning, feeling, sensing and
perceiving which are recognised characteristics of humans and animals.

For example, how do prescribed drugs for treating depression affect

behaviour through their interaction with the nervous system?

(b) Genetic Aspects

Genetic aspects rely on the transmission of traits from parents to offspring
through genes, and the functional units of hereditary material that are
found in all living cells.

For example, we may want to know whether high intelligence is inherited

from one generation to the next.

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1. What are the psychological processes and the underlying
physiological events? Discuss.
2. In your opinion, why is biological psychology an important field
in psychology and how is it different from other fields of
psychology? Discuss.


Biological psychology is concerned with the relationship between psychological
processes and the underlying physiological events otherwise known as the mind-
body phenomenon. The main focus of biological psychology is the function of the
brain and the rest of the nervous system in activities. It is clear that most of what
we think of as our mental life involves the activities of the nervous system and
the brain.

What is a neuron? A neuron is a nerve cell that makes up our nervous system.
The main function of the neuron is to transmit information throughout the body.
These highly specialised nerve cells are responsible for communicating
information in both chemical and electrical forms. Neurons or nerve cells are
found in the brain, spinal cord and nerves. You can refer to Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.3: Neuron


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2.2.1 Basic Structure of Neurons

Different parts of the neuron are responsible for specific actions. There are six
basic structures of neurons, which are shown in Figure 2.4.

Figure 2.4: Basic structures of a neuron

Let us now study the structures one by one.

(a) Nucleus
The nucleus, as shown in Figure 2.5, is a membrane-bound structure that
consists of the cell's hereditary information and controls the growth and
reproduction of cells. It is commonly the most prominent organelle in the cell.

Figure 2.5: Nucleus


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(b) Cell Body

The cell body, as shown in Figure 2.6, contains the nucleus of the cell,
which in turn contains the genetic material in the form of chromosomes.

Figure 2.6: Cell body


(c) Dendrites
Dendrites, as shown in Figure 2.7, often look likes branches or spikes
extending out from the cell body. It is primarily the surfaces of the
dendrites that receive chemical messages from other neurons.

Figure 2.7: Dendrites


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(d) Axon
Axon, as shown in Figure 2.8, is a single, thin and long tube-looking
extension that carries the information to be transmitted to other neurons.
Longer axons are usually covered with a myelin sheath, a series of fatty
cells which are wrapped around an axon many times. These myelin axons
transmit information much faster than other neurons.

Figure 2.8: Axon

(e) Terminal Buttons
At the end of the axon are terminal buttons, as shown in Figure 2.9, that are
responsible for the launch of the messages to other neurons.

Figure 2.9: Terminal button

Source: thebrain.mcgill

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(f) Synapse
The synapse is the point of connection between two neurons or between a
neuron and a muscle or gland, as shown in Figure 2.10. Electrochemical
communication between neurons takes place at these junctions.

Figure 2.10: Synapse


Do you know that there are an estimated 100 billion neurons in our
nervous system? Some experts believe that some trillion neurons are
responsible for a single action. Discuss.

2.2.2 How Do Neurons Transmit Messages?

What are messages? Messages are electrical in nature and move within the
neuron in one direction (imagine a one-way street):

Dendrites -> Cell body ->Axon -> Terminal buttons

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Axons convey information from the cell body and dendrites receive information.
The point where the cells meet to relay information (between axon and dendrite)
is a synapse. The information is sent from the axon of the sending cell to the
dendrite of the receiving cell by transmission of chemical molecules called
neurotransmitters. A neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that is released from
a nerve cell, transmits an impulse from a nerve cell to another nerve, muscle,
organ, or other tissue.

(a) What are Firing Neurons?

The firing of the neuron is based on an „all-or-none‰ law where messages
are sent out when triggered, otherwise the neuron remains in a resting
state. During the resting state, there is more negative electrical charge
(about -70milivolts) in the neuron. When messages arrive at any given
neuron, the positive charged ions are allowed to enter the neuron and
change the charge status of the neuron.
When a certain level of charge ion is reached, the neuron produces action
potential. Action potential is an electric nerve impulse that travels through
a neuron when it is set off by a trigger, changing the cellÊs charge from
negative to positive. The impulse will travel down on the axon and gets
released by the terminal button.

(b) Where Neuron Meets Neuron?

Neurons can communicate without being attached to each other. There are
gaps between neurons, termed as synapses. A synapse is a chemical
connection that bridges the gap between two neurons.
Thus, when the impulse reaches the terminal button, it will release
neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that carry messages
across the synapse to the dendrite (and sometimes the cell body) of a
receiver neuron that will travel to the next neuron.
Thus, messages travel in electrical form within the neuron but through
chemical form between the neuron. Interestingly, not all forms of
transmitters can be passed on to just any given neuron. This is because the
neurotransmitter must fit the receptor site at the dendrites in order for the
communication to occur in a lock-and-key fashion. There are two types of
neurotransmitters as shown in Figure 2.11.

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Figure 2.11: Types of neurotransmitters

Let us study them one by one.

(a) Excitatory Message

These neurotransmitters promote the development of action potential and
the firing of the neuron.

(b) Inhibitory Message

These neurotransmitters produce chemical information that decreases the
likelihood of the development of action potential or firing of the neuron.
Both types of neurotransmitters can be accepted at the site simultaneously,
thus if there are more excitatory messages than inhibitory ones, the neuron
will fire. In contrast, if there are more inhibitory messages than excitatory
ones, the neuron will remain at its resting state. These processes take just
several milliseconds.

2.2.3 What is a Nervous System?

The nervous system of a human being acts as the information gatherer, storage
centre and control system. The nervous system, as shown in Figure 2.12, is
responsible for sending, receiving and processing nerve impulses throughout the
body. All the organs and muscles in our body rely on these nerve impulses to

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Figure 2.12: Nervous system


There are two main divisions of the nervous system, as shown in Figure 2.13.

Figure 2.13: Divisions of the nervous system

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Let us discuss the divisions in greater detail.

(a) Central Nervous System (CNS)

The central nervous system is a bundle of nerves that leaves the brain and
runs down the length of the back and is the main means for transmitting
messages between the brain and body. The CNS consists of the brain and
the spinal cord and communicates with the rest of the body through the
peripheral nervous system (PNS).
The spinal cord, as shown in Figure 2.14, is the spinal column, more
commonly known as the backbone. It is made up primarily of vertebrae,
discs and the spinal cord. Acting as a communication conduit for the brain,
signals are transmitted and received through the spinal cord. When an
injury to the spinal cord occurs, the flow of information from that point
down stops. This interruption in instructions to the arms, legs, and other
parts of the body will prevent the individual from moving, and sometimes
breathing, and obstructs or stops any sense of feeling or touch.

Figure 2.14: Lumbar spine and spinal cord


(b) Peripheral Nervous System (PNS)

The peripheral nervous system is made up of bundles of axons connecting
the spinal cord to the rest of the body. The PNS is divided into two parts, as
shown in Table 2.1.

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Table 2.1: Two Parts of Peripheral Nervous System

Nervous System
The peripheral nerves that transmit information to our skin and
Somatic Nervous muscles are called the somatic nervous system. They are
System responsible for voluntary movements such as dancing, writing and
The autonomic nervous system controls our internal organs such as
Autonomic our heart, lungs and kidneys. The term autonomic refers to
Nervous System involuntary and automatic. This means that it is partly automatic.
We are unaware of these activities although they are controlled by
our brain and spinal cord.

The autonomic nervous system is also divided into two parts, as shown in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2: Two Parts of Autonomic Nervous System

Nervous System
Sympathetic The sympathetic nervous system is controlled by a chain of
Nervous System neurons lying outside our spinal cord. It increases our heart rate
and breathing rate which prepares our body for fight or flight
activities. In other words, this division is responsible for managing
stressful emergency situations (fight or flight response).
Parasympathetic The parasympathetic nervous system is controlled by neurons at
Nervous System the top and bottom levels of our spinal cord. It decreases our heart
rate, increases digestive activities and promotes activities we do
while resting. In other words, this division is responsible for
calming the body after the emergency situation is resolved.


1. Which part of a neuron receives input from other neurons?

2. Which part sends messages to other cells?


When we see an old beggar on a street, what goes on in our brain which triggers
a strong emotional response in us? Which part of the brain has the strongest
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effect on our emotions? How do you remember the way to your grandmaÊs
house? Where do dreams come from? Your brain is responsible for these things
and a lot more.

Our brain is, in fact, the big boss of our body. It runs the show and controls just
about everything that we do. How do you define the brain? The brain is a part of
the central nervous system that includes all the higher nervous centres, enclosed
within the skull and connected to the spinal cord. The brain has many different
parts that work together.

There are three main parts of the brain, namely the cerebrum, the cerebellum and
the brain stem, as shown in Figure 2.15.

Figure 2.15: Parts of the brain

Let us discuss these parts in greater detail.

(a) Cerebrum
The cerebrum is the largest part of the human brain and associated with
higher brain functions such as thought and action. It makes up 85% of the
brain weight. The cerebrum is divided into two symmetrical halves − the
left hemisphere and the right hemisphere, as shown in Table 2.3.

Table 2.3: Left Hemisphere and Right Hemisphere of the Cerebrum

Cerebrum Description
It controls the right part of the body and is accountable for
Left hemisphere analytical thinking, speech, and mathematical and logical
reasoning. The left half controls the right side of the human body.
It controls the left part of the body and is responsible for creative
Right thinking such as music, drawing, and emotional expression. The
hemisphere right half controls the left side of the human body.

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Figure 2.16 shows the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Figure 2.16: Left and right hemispheres


(b) Cerebellum
The cerebellum is smaller than the cerebrum at 1/8 of its size. It is involved
in the coordination of voluntary motor movement, balance and equilibrium
and muscle tone. It is located towards the back of the brain and just above
the brain stem.

(c) Brain stem

The brain stem sits beneath the cerebrum and in front of the cerebellum. It
plays a vital role in basic attention, arousal and consciousness. All
information to and from our body passes through the brain stem on the
way to or from the brain.

Figure 2.17 shows the cerebellum and brain stem of the brain.

Figure 2.17: Cerebellum and brain stem


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2.3.1 What are the Main Components of the Brain?

The brain consists of three divisions: the forebrain, the midbrain and the
hindbrain, as shown in Figure 2.18.

Figure 2.18: The main divisions of the brain


Let us discuss the components in greater detail.

(a) Forebrain
The forebrain is the largest division and consists of the cerebrum, thalamus
and hypothalamus. Refer to Figure 2.19 for the position of the thalamus and
hypothalamus in the forebrain. The cerebral cortex is divided into four
lobes, as shown in Figure 2.20.

Figure 2.19: Thalamus and hypothalamus


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Figure 2.20: Four lobes


Table 2.4 shows the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, thalamus and
Table 2.4: The Cerebral Cortex ă Four Lobes

Forebrain Description
Associated with reasoning, planning, parts of
Frontal lobe
speech, movement, emotions and problem solving.
Associated with orientation, recognition and
Cerebral Parietal lobe
perception of stimuli.
Occipital lobe Associated with visual processing.
Associated with perception and recognition of
Temporal lobe
auditory stimuli, memory and speech.
The thalamus is known as the final relay station for perceptual data
before it is passed on to the cerebral cortex. It receives input from diverse
brain areas, primarily including all the senses except olfaction. It is also
responsible for regulating motor control, as shown in Figure 2.20.
The hypothalamus is an important control centre for the sex drive,
Hypothala pleasure, pain, hunger, thirst, blood pressure, body temperature and
mus other visceral functions, as shown in Figure 2.20.

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The forebrain also contains a limbic system, as shown in Figure 2.21, which is
directly linked to the experience of emotions. What is a limbic system?

The limbic system is a complex set of structures that lies on both sides of the
thalamus, just under the cerebrum. It includes the hypothalamus, the
hippocampus, the amygdala, the pituitary gland and several other nearby areas
(refer to Table 2.5). It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life,
and has a lot to do with the formation of memories.

Table 2.5: The Limbic System

The Limbic System Description

Hypothalamus For description, please refer to Table 2.4

Hippocampus Involved with memory phenomena, especially with the
formation of long-term memory.

Amygdala Plays an important role on the mediation and control of major

affective activities like friendship, love and affection, and on
the expression of mood and, mainly, on fear, rage and

Pituitary gland Is very small and only about the size of a pea. It plays an
important role to produce and release various types of
hormones into our body, for example, a hormone that controls
the amount of sugars and water in our body.

Figure 2.21: Limbic system


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(b) Midbrain
The midbrain is the smallest division and it makes connections with the
other two divisions and alerts the forebrain to incoming sensations.

(c) Hindbrain
The hindbrain is made up of the cerebellum, pons and medulla. It is
involved in sleeping, waking, body movements and the control of vital
reflexes such as the heart rate and blood pressure.


1. Which part of the autonomic nervous system is more active during

danger, and which is more active after it?
2. What are the main differences between the left hemisphere and
right hemisphere?

2.3.2 Split Brain Phenomenon

The corpus callosum connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Each
hemisphere controls the muscles on the other side of the body.

For example, the left side of each retina sees the right side of the world and is
then routed to the left hemisphere. The right side of each retina sees the left side
of the world and then goes to the right hemisphere.

About 95% of us have our left hemisphere controlling our ability to speak, while
our right is mute. Though controlling the muscles of the other side of the body,
the two hemispheres can easily communicate and coordinate if the corpus
callosum is intact.

However, if the corpus callosum is not intact (injured or severed), there will be a
problem in communication between the two hemispheres, resulting in a split
brain phenomenon.


What is the endocrine system? The endocrine system is closely related to the
autonomic nervous system. It is a chemical communication network that sends

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messages throughout the nervous system via the bloodstream. In other words, it
is a set of glands that produce hormones and release them into our blood. The
endocrine system produces hormone chemicals that circulate through the blood
and affect the functioning or growth of other parts of the body.

Our hormones are actually similar to neurotransmitters. They both affect our
nervous system. What is the difference between neurotransmitters and the
endocrine system? See Table 2.6.

Table 2.6: The Differences between Neurotransmitters and Endocrine System

The Differences Description

Neurotransmitters Neurotransmitters: the release is cell to cell
Endocrine Hormones: released into the blood stream. These hormones regulate
the body's growth, metabolism (the physical and chemical processes
of the body), and sexual development and function.

Figure 2.22 shows the glands in the endocrine system.

Figure 2.22: Glands in the endocrine system


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2.4.1 The Endocrine System and Hormones

What are hormones? Hormones are chemical substances formed in one organ or
part of the body and carried in the blood to another organ or part where they
exert functional effects. Hormones are released into the different parts of the
body slower than neurons and do not move in a specific manner as neurons do,
much like radio waves.

The pituitary gland (see Figure 2.23) is the master gland and main producer of
hormones, and controls the rest of the endocrine system that affects emotions, sexual
desire and energy levels. For example, Oxytocin is a hormone that is associated with
the feeling of nursing among new mothers, and stimulates cuddling.

The endocrine system consists of the adrenal (Figure 2.24), gonad (Figure 2.25),
pancreas (Figure 2.26), parathyroid (Figure 2.27), thyroid (Figure 2.28), pineal
(Figure 2.29) and pituitary glands. The following diagram shows the
relationships between these various organs (refer to Table 2.7).

Table 2.7: The Overview of Hormones in the Human Endocrine System

Glands Hormone secreted Function

 Antidiuretic  Affects water retention in
hormone kidneys and controls the
blood pressure
 Corticotropin  Controls the production
and secretion of adrenal
cortex hormones
 Growth hormone  Affects growth and
development and
stimulates protein
Figure 2.23: Pituitary
 Luteinising hormone  Controls reproductive
(LH) and follicle- functioning and sexual
stimulating hormone characteristics
 Oxytocin  Stimulates contraction of
the uterus and milk ducts
in the breast
 Prolactin  Initiates and maintains
milk production in breasts

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Corticosteroid  Controls key functions in

the body
 Helps to reduce
 Maintains blood sugar
levels, blood pressure and
muscle strength
 Regulates salt and water
Figure 2.24: Adrenal balance

 Estrogen  Affects the development

of female sexual
characteristics and
 Testosterone  Affects the development
Figure 2.25: Gonad of male sexual
characteristics and
 Insulin  Lowers blood sugar levels
 Glucagon  Stimulates metabolism of
glucose, protein and fat
 Raises blood sugar levels

Figure 2.26: Pancreas

Parathyroid hormone Affects bone formation and
excretion of calcium and

Figure 2.27: Parathyroid

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The thyroid hormones Affects growth, maturation

are: and metabolism.
 Triiodothyronine
 Thyroxine (T4)

Figure 2.28: Thyroid

Melatonin is a hormone that
affects the modulation of
wake/sleep patterns and
photoperiodic (seasonal)
It helps regulate other
hormones and maintains the
Figure 2.30: Melatonin body's circadian rhythm. The
hormone circadian rhythm is an
Figure 2.29: Pineal internal 24-hour „clock‰ that
plays a critical role in when
we fall asleep and when we
wake up.

In this subtopic, we will discuss further the genetic and psychological

2.5.1 Psychological Explanation at the Gene Level

(a) Chromosomes
Let us now study the chromosomes in greater detail.
(i) What are chromosomes?

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Figure 2.31: Basic human cell

Our cells contain chromosomes (refer Figure 2.31) which are strands
of hereditary material. Chromosomes are long pieces of DNA found
in the centre (nucleus) of cells. The DNA is the chemical that holds the
genes. It is considered the building blocks of the human body. Genes
are responsible for controlling the chemical reactions that direct an
individualÊs development.

Chromosomes come in pairs. Normally, each cell in the human body

has 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 chromosomes in total). Half the
chromosomes come from the mother and the other half come from the

The male sperm penetrates the female egg cell and it becomes a
zygote through the process of conception. Each zygote has 23 pairs of
chromosomes which are rod-shaped structures that contain the basic
hereditary information. In other words, chromosomes are responsible
for the characteristics of individuals.

(ii) What are sex chromosomes?

Two of the chromosomes (the X and the Y chromosome) determine if
you are born a boy or a girl (your gender). The mother always
contributes an X chromosome to the child. The father may contribute
an X or a Y. Therefore, it is the father that determines the gender of

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the child. You will be female if you have two X chromosomes ÂXXÊ.
You are male if you have one X and one Y chromosome ÂXYÊ. Only
males have the Y chromosome. This means that the sperm from the
male determines the sex of the baby.

Figure 2.32 shows the transfer of the XY gene that determines the sex
of the baby.

Figure 2.32: Sex chromosome


(b) Genes
We know that everyone has two of each gene − one received from the father
and another one from the mother. If the pair is the same, it is called
Homozygous. If the pair is different it is called Heterozygous for that
particular trait. See Table 2.8 for the examples of homozygous and

Table 2.8: Examples of Homozygous and Heterozygous

Genes Description
Homozygous Homozygous means the two alleles for a gene match. It means
that you have identical alleles for a trait (like one dominant allele
from each of your parents for a certain trait). Example: BB or bb.
Heterozygous Heterozygous means the two alleles for a gene are different. It
means that you have different alleles for a trait (like one
dominant allele from your father and one recessive allele from
your mother for a certain trait). Example: Bb.

Our genes are divided into two types: dominant and recessive genes. A
dominant gene will show the effects even if you are heterozygous for the

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gene. A recessive gene will only show its effects if you are homozygous for
the gene.

What is the difference between dominant and recessive genes? Let us look
at Table 2.9.

Table 2.9: Differences between Dominant and Recessive Genes

Types of Genes Differences

Dominant genes One parent has a single, faulty dominant gene (D), which
(Gene that affects the overpowers its normal counterpart (d), affecting that parent.
childÊs trait) When the affected parent mates with an unaffected and non-
carrier mate (dd), the offspring are either affected or not
affected, but they are not carriers.
Recessive genes Both parents carry a normal gene (N), and a faulty, recessive
(Can only affect the gene (n). The parents, although carriers, are unaffected by the
childÊs trait if both faulty gene. Their offspring are either affected, not affected, or
genes are recessive) carriers.

Refer to Figure 2.33 for a clearer picture of recessive and dominant genes.

Figure 2.33: Dominant and recessive genes


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Twin siblings: How does it occur?

Two babies born to a mother at one birth! Do you know how this occurs? There
are two types of twins: monozygotic and dizygotic, as shown in Figure 2.34.

Figure 2.34: Types of twins

Let us now discuss the types of twins in greater detail.

(i) Monozygotic Twins

Monozygotic twins happen as a result of the division of a single
fertilised egg or zygote between 1 and 14 days post-conception. They
share virtually all their genes and, with very rare exception due to
unusual embryological events, are usually of the same sex. A common
assumption is that because monozygotic co-twins have a shared
heredity, their behavioural or physical differences are fully explained
by environmental factors. However, monozygotic twins are never
exactly alike in any measured trait, and may even differ for genetic

(ii) Dizygotic Twins

This happens when two different eggs undergo fertilisation by two
different spermatozoa, not necessarily at the same time. Dizygotic
twins share, on average, 50% of their genes by descent so that the
genetic relationship between dizygotic co-twins is exactly the same as
that of ordinary brothers or sisters. Dizygotic twins may be of the
same or opposite sex, outcomes that occur with approximately equal

(c) Identifying Genes and Heritability

The Human Genome Project has allowed us to use modern technology to
identify and pinpoint the genes responsible for various conditions. This has
enhanced the services of genetic counselling whereby couples may seek to

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choose certain favourable genes to be selected and passed on to their


Heritability is defined as an estimate of variance within a population that is

due to heredity. We rely on research on monozygotic (identical) and
dizygotic (fraternal) twins and compare the similarities and differences
exhibited by these twins. Research on genetics also looks at comparisons
between adopted children and their biological as well as adoptive parents.

Various studies have demonstrated a genetic link to several psychological

disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression as well as some attitudes
and personality disorders.

If you can curl your tongue but your brother cannot, are you
homozygous or heterozygous for the tongue-curling gene? Are you
able to tell? Discuss.


What are the differences between dominant and recessive genes?


There are two types of influences: direct and indirect (see Figure 2.35)

Figure 2.35: Types of influences

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Let us now study the influences in greater detail.

(a) Direct influence

Generally, a single gene has almost complete control of the outcome. Our
environment has almost no effect. Examples of this include eye colour, hair
texture and skin colour.

(b) Indirect influence

No one gene has control of the outcome. Rather, the genes can influence a
behaviour by influencing other characteristics that are associated or
opposite to it. For example; a gene that makes you inattentive and restless
will interfere with behaviours that involve sitting for long periods such as
attending a lecture.

In conclusion, our genes control to a certain extent all our behaviours and mental
processes. This includes intelligence, personality and attitudes. However, our
environment and the adjustments that we make in our environment can reduce
the determinants of our genes. For example, phenylketonuria is an inherited
condition that can lead to mental retardation, but with strict diet alterations
during the first two years of life, the risk of mental retardation can be greatly


1. There are many genetic disorders that are passed on from parents to
their children. Can you provide some examples?
2. What can be done to reduce the probability of having children with
genetic disorders? Discuss.

Ć An understanding of human biology is very important in studying

psychology. We will be better able to explain human behaviours if we know
its internal working.

Ć All behaviours can be traced back to the activity of neurons, which carry
information from one cell to another. Communication between neurons is
chemical: neurotransmitters cross the synapse, attach to receptor sites and
inhibit or excite the receiving cell.

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Ć The nervous system consists of the central nervous system (CNS) and the
peripheral nervous system (PNS) which includes the somatic and autonomic
nervous systems.

Ć The human brain has two hemispheres: left and right. The brain is also
divided into four lobes − occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes and
each has basic functions. The brain also has association areas which can cause
impairment if damaged.

Ć We also learned how our genes affect behaviour through dominant and
recessive genes. The genetic factor plays a strong role in our behaviour as
well as our physical appearance.

Ć Our genes that we inherit strongly influence the individual characteristics

that we have. Genetic variations will lead to differences between individuals.

Autonomic nervous system Neurons

Axon Neurotransmitters
Central nervous system Parasympathetic nervous system
Chromosomes Peripheral nervous system
Dendrites Recessive genes
Dizygotic Sex chromosomes
Dominant genes Spinal cord
Endocrine system Sympathetic nervous system
Heterozygous Synapse
Homozygous The action potential
Hormone The nervous system

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Breedlove, S. M., Rosenzweig, M. R., & Watson, N. V. (2007). Biological

psychology: An introduction to behavioral, cognitive, and clinical
neuroscience (5th ed.). Sinauer.
Kalat, J. W. (2008). Introduction to psychology (9th ed.). Wadsworth-Thomson
Morris, C. G., & Maisto A. A. (2002). Psychology: An introduction (12th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

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Topic  Sensation and
3 Perception
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define sensation and perception;
2. Explain visual perception;
3. Describe auditory perception;
4. Describe olfactory system;
5. Identify functions of the skin; and
6. Explain taste perception.

Have you ever wondered how we become aware of the world around us? How
do we receive information about the world? It is through our five senses (sight,
sound, smell, taste and touch). Sensation is the entering of raw data from our
senses into our brain. Perception is the interpretation of this raw data. With the
help of our sensory organs such as our skin and our eyes, we are able to receive
information about the world around us.

Have you ever been in a situation where you are straining your eyes to look at
something far away, and as you move towards the object, you finally reach a
point where you can just detect it enough to be able to perceive what it is? Well,
the point of time when you can just detect the presence of or difference in the
object in your focus (stimulus) is called threshold. Threshold is a concept central
to the study of sensation and perception. You will learn more about threshold
later in this topic.

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Perception can be defined as the process of making meaning out of sensory

Our brain is a complex organ that is constantly making meaning out of

situations. Any information that we receive through our five senses (sight,
sound, smell, taste and touch) is sent to our brain to be interpreted. Our brain
recognises patterns that match previous experiences and then uses that
information to create perceptions. This is the process that allows us to be aware
of our environment and the world around us.

As mentioned in the introduction, threshold is a concept central to the study of

sensation and perception. There are two types of thresholds: absolute and
difference ă as shown in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1: Two types of thresholds

Let us discuss the two types of thresholds one by one.

(a) Absolute threshold

An absolute threshold can be defined as the smallest amount of stimulus

energy necessary to produce a sensation (Gescheider, 1997).

For example: How loud does your mobile phone have to ring in order for
you to hear it in a quiet room?

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(b) Difference threshold

Difference threshold, on the other hand, refers to the difference in

intensity between two stimuli.

For example: What pitch difference (high versus low tones) does your
mobile phone need in order for you to differentiate which phone is ringing?

Generally, people are able to detect absolute threshold and difference

threshold 50% of the time.


In your own words, define perception.


There are two main factors that enable us to see and perceive the world around
us: light and the visual system. The visual system depends on light to function.
Our visual system consists of three main parts; eyes, visual pathways and visual
centres of the brain. Our eyes capture light; the visual pathways (created mainly
by the optic nerve and optic chiasm) carry information from the eye to the brain;
and the visual centres of the brain interpret the information.

Figure 3.2: The visual system


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Figure 3.2 illustrates our visual system. Let me summarise briefly. Light enters
our eyes through the cornea and passes through the iris. The lens projects the
image onto the retina. The photoreceptor cells in the retina capture the light
(energy) and transform it into electrical impulses. The optic nerve carries this
information in the form of electrical impulses to the visual cortex to be
interpreted. The result is visual perception.

3.2.1 The Eyes

To fully understand our visual system, we first have to learn about the
fundamental parts of the eye and its functions. Please refer to Figure 3.3 as you
read the following.

Figure 3.3: Image reflected by the lens onto the retina


(a) Cornea
Transparent film that acts as a protective cover over the front part of our
eyes. The lens and the cornea act together to refract light.
(b) Iris
Coloured part of our eye which guards the amount of light that enters our
eyes by controlling the size of the pupil.
(c) Pupil
The „black spot‰ at the centre of the iris that allows light into the eye. It
looks black to us because tissues inside the eye absorb most of the light
entering the pupil.
(d) Retina
The inner surface of the eye where images of the visual world are reflected.

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(i) Photoreceptor cells

The retina contains hundreds of photoreceptors which when
stimulated by light (energy), send information in the form of electrical
impulses to the brain. There are two types of photoreceptors: rods and
cones. Rods help us to see in the dark. Cones make it possible to see
colours. Cones are less sensitive to light compared to rods, and
therefore operate mainly in daylight. Table 3.1 shows the differences
between rods and cones.

Table 3.1: Differences between Rods and Cones

Rods Cones
Plentiful and found in the retina. Concentrated mainly in the fovea.
Activation occurs at a lower Activation occurs at a higher
threshold. threshold.
Have lower sharpness. Have higher sharpness.
Do not process colour. Process colour.

Source: Davis and Palladino (2000)

(ii) Fovea
The pit in the retina located at the centre of the macula, which allows
us to see the objects in our direct focus in great detail. This is because
the greatest density of cones is located in the fovea.

Now that we know the fundamental parts of the eye and its functions, let me
explain briefly how our eye works.

Light first enters our eyes through the cornea. Then, the light passes through our
pupil. When there is too much light or bright light, the muscles in our iris
contract in order to make the pupil smaller, thus preventing our eyes from
getting damaged (Tovee, 2008). On the other hand, when there is too little light
or dim light, the muscles in the iris are relaxed to make the pupil larger, and thus
allow more light into our eyes so that we can see better.

The light then moves through the lens, and is reflected on the retina. The image
that is reflected by the lens onto the retina is much like a mirror image in the
sense that it is upside down. Please refer to Figure 3.3 for a picture illustration.
The lens changes its shape in order to focus on objects that are far or close. When
we want to focus on an object that is close to us, the muscles in the lens contract
to make the lens rounder. On the other hand, when we want to focus on an object
that is far away, the muscles in the lens relax, and the lens is flattened out. Any

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image that passes through the lens will be in sharpest focus at the fovea. The
words that you are reading now are focused on the fovea, while the rest of what
you see is focused on other parts of the retina (Morris & Maisto, 2001).


In your own words, explain visual perception.


The auditory system picks up the sounds around us and then converts them into
information that the brain can understand so that we are able to perceive sound.
The auditory system consists of the ear and parts of the brain. The ear can be
divided into three parts:
(a) The outer ear;
(b) The middle ear; and
(c) The inner ear.

Figure 3.4 is an illustration of the different parts of the ear.

Figure 3.4: The ear


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Let us discuss the parts in more detail.

(a) The outer ear
The most prominent part of our ears is the pinna. The pinna is basically our
ear flap, the part of our ears that we can see. The structure of the pinna
helps us judge the location of sounds. After the pinna receives the sounds,
it is funnelled through the auditory canal. Essentially, the pinna and
auditory canal function like a directional microphone that picks up sound
and modifies it (Sekuler & Blake, 1994).

(b) The middle ear

The outer wall of the middle ear is formed by the eardrum. The vibrations
that strike the eardrum are passed along to the oval window of the cochlea.
Between the eardrum and oval window are the ossicles where three of the
tiniest bones in the human body are located. These three bones ă malleus,
incus and stapes -ă transfer vibrations from the eardrum to the oval
window of the cochlea (Sekuler & Blake, 1994).

(c) The inner ear

The inner ear consists of parts that not only help us to hear, but also to
maintain our balance and posture. We will focus on the cochlea first. The
cochlea is a tube filled with fluid that curls into a snail-like shape. The
vibrations in the inner ear create pressure waves in the fluid, and these
waves stimulate the hair cells (receptor cells) on the basilar membrane
(Gazzaniga & Heatherton, 2003). The basilar membrane runs along the
length of the cochlea. There is a specific spot on the basilar membrane for
the frequency of each tone. Just like each string on a guitar is tuned to play
a particular note, each spot on the basilar membrane is tuned to the
frequency of a tone.

Hair cells (auditory receptor cells) are delicate and fragile, and we only have
16,000 of them compared to the 100 million receptor cells in our eyes. Sounds that
are too loud can easily damage our hair cells, resulting in loss of hearing.
Prolonged exposure to sound waves above 85 decibels can result in loss of
hearing (Myers, 2002).


1. List the main functions of the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
2. Describe auditory perception.

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3.3.1 How We Hear

Now that we have discussed the different parts of the ear and their functions, let
us see how the process of hearing takes place. This is how we hear:
(a) Sound waves enter the outer ear and are funnelled to the eardrum through
the auditory canal, causing it to vibrate.
(b) Three tiny bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus and stapes) amplify the
eardrumÊs vibrations and carry them to the oval window and into the fluid-
filled cochlea.
(c) The moving fluid also makes the basilar membrane move, and as a result
the hair cells on the basilar membrane also move.
(d) The movement of hair cells triggers impulses at the nerve cells which
connect to the auditory nerve.
(e) The auditory nerve connects to the brain, where the impulses are finally
interpreted as sounds.

It is very rare that all the sounds we hear come from the same source. Most of the
time, the sounds we hear come from multiple sources, and the sound waves
coming from these sources are mixed together in the air to create a complex
wave. How do we make sense of these sounds? Our auditory system separates
the sound we have selected to hear from the sound in the background. How does
it do this? First, it groups together the sounds from multiple sources that occur at
the same time. Then, it follows the sequence of sounds from the sound you have
selected to hear. In order to decide which sounds come from which source, our
auditory system uses two rules: onset times and harmonicity (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5: Rules of auditory system

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Let us look at the rules one by one.

(a) Onset times
Sounds that start at the same time come from the same source.
(b) Harmonicity
Sounds that are harmoniously related come from the same source.

In order to follow a sequence of sounds from the same source, the auditory
system looks for sounds that are similar. If the sounds have similar frequencies
and locations, they tend to be grouped together (law of similarity). If a sound is
briefly interrupted by a second sound (for example, talking interrupted by a dog
barking), we perceive the first sound as being continuous (law of continuity). If a
brief gap in the sound is filled with a second more intense sound, then we
perceive the first sound as being continuous even if it is not (law of closure).

One of the most remarkable abilities we have is our ability to communicate,

express ourselves with words and exchange ideas. More specifically, our ability
to produce and perceive speech is an important aspect of our evolution as human
beings. One of auditory perceptionÊs main functions is to enable us to perceive

Imagine you are trying to have a conversation with somebody over loud music
or at a noisy place. It is only natural that the person you are talking to does not
hear everything that you are saying, and vice versa. However, somehow people
rarely pay much attention to the words they may have missed hearing due to the
loud sounds in the environment. This phenomenon is called phonemic
restoration. Phonemic restoration takes place when people use top-down
processing to fill in missing phonemes or words. For example, at a noisy hawker
stall, your colleague says to you, „You should take some time off to (noise) --lax.‰
If the sound „re‰ is drowned by noise, you would still most likely think that you
heard the full word „relax‰. Why? Bottom-up processing provides us with all the
possible words in the English language that end with ÂlaxÊ. Then, top-down
processing takes over and helps us select the word „relax‰ as the appropriate
word for the context given. If both bottom-up processing and top-down
processing happen quickly enough, then you may not even realise the sound ÂreÊ
is missing. Your perceptual process fills in the sounds for you.

3.2.2 The Orienting Sense

Apart from hearing, our ears are also responsible for creating balance and
providing us with a sense of orientation in our environment. The vestibular sense
can be referred to as our orienting sense. Our vestibular sense provides us with

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information about how our body (especially our head) is oriented in the world in
connection to gravity (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).

The vestibular system is located in the inner ear and consists of three canals
called the semicircular canals and the utricle. Each semicircular canal is filled
with fluid that moves when we move our heads. When the fluids in the canals
move, hair cells located in the canal bend. When hair cells bend, they are
stimulated and proceed to send information about movement to the brain (Davis
& Palladino, 2000). For example, if you were to turn your head quickly now, the
pressure changes in the fluid-filled cochlea would stimulate the hair cells by
bending them as the fluid moves up and down like waves in the cochlea. The
three canals called the semicircular canals provide us with information about
movement. For example, they tell us which direction our head is moving when
we nod or turn our heads. Essentially, the semicircular canals are responsible for
providing information about the speed and direction of body movement.

The utricle is a fluid-filled chamber in our inner ear that functions the same way
as the semicircular canals and is also responsible for detecting gravity. Basically,
the utricle provides information about gravitation, up and down movements,
and forward and backward movements (Morris & Maisto, 2001).

If you were to lose your vestibular sense, you would feel quite disorientated and
dizzy initially but would quickly adapt by relying more heavily on your sense of
sight. Motion sickness happens when the signals from the visual system
contradict those from the vestibular system. You may feel nauseated while
reading in a moving bus because you are looking at something that is not moving
ă the book ă but your vestibular system tells you that you are moving. There is a
conflict between the senses, and this upsets our system (Gerrig & Zimbardo,

To consciously experience the vestibular system now, try this simple experiment:
first, try to read while moving your head. You should still be able to read without
much problem. Now try and move your book while reading. You should
experience some difficulty reading now. Why? Because moving our head
activates our vestibular system but we can still adapt and orientate ourselves to
stabilise our perception of the world somewhat (Davis & Palladino, 2000).


1. Where is the vestibular system located?

2. What is the function of the vestibular system?

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The olfactory system is the sensory system for our sense of smell or olfaction.
Our olfactory system is divided into two parts. The main olfactory system is
responsible for detecting odours while the second olfactory system is responsible
for communicating sexual and territorial messages.

(a) Main Olfactory System

First, we will look at the main olfactory system. Figure 3.6 is an illustration
of the main olfactory system.

Figure 3.6: Olfactory system


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Table 3.2 shows the functions and location of the important component
parts of our olfactory system.

Table 3.2: Parts of the Olfactory System, Functions and Location

Parts of the
Functions Location
Olfactory System
Olfactory receptors Detecting odour molecules On the olfactory epithelium in
the nasal cavity.
Olfactory bulb Conveys messages from the Just below the frontal lobe and
nose to the brain. just above the receptors.
Limbic system Olfaction, emotion and In the brain, just below the
memory. thalamus.

Source: Santrock (2005)

Figure 3.7 shows the three basic steps involved in the olfaction process.

Figure 3.7: The olfaction process

Source: Gazzaniga and Heatherton (2003)

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1. What are the three basic steps in the olfaction process?

2. Name three important component parts of the olfactory system,
then list their functions and location.

(b) Second Olfactory System

As I mentioned earlier, we also have a second sensory system devoted to
the sense of smell for purposes of social interaction such as communicating
sexual or territorial signals. The stimuli for this second olfactory system are
odourless hormones that we naturally produce called pheromones.
Pheromones are detected by receptors located on the roof of the nasal
cavity (Morris & Maisto, 2001). In the past, it was always thought that only
animals had pheromones. This is an obvious conclusion if you observe the
world around you. You see dogs sniffing each otherÊs rear ends to check
each other out but you do not see humans doing the same thing. We may
not urinate on car tyres to mark our territory but we do apparently „sniff‰
each other out. There is increasing evidence that pheromones can help us
sniff out the right partner (Wright, 2003). A womanÊs sense of olfaction is
heightened during ovulation. This suggests that women may be using their
noses to sniff out pheromones at a time when reproduction has its highest
chances of success. Perfume manufacturers have also made use of
pheromones by combining it with perfume and then try to convince us that
this combination will make us more sexually attractive.

3.4.1 How Do We Smell?

Olfaction is not considered one of the more important senses compared to our
visual and auditory system, and therefore not as much research has been done on
it. Even though the sense of smell has the most direct route to the brain
compared to the other senses, it is the least understood. The location of the
olfactory receptors is hard to reach and difficult to examine properly, thus
making research more difficult.

The olfactory receptors are not located in the nose as you might think; they are
located in an area of tissue about one inch in each nasal hole. We have
approximately 10 million olfactory receptors. Each receptor contains about six to
12 hair-like structures at the tip of the cell called cilia. The olfactory receptors are
continuously replaced (Davis & Palladino, 2000). Unlike our sense of taste, there

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are no basic characteristics of smell. Each scent is recognised individually.

Humans can identify up to 10,000 different scents. So how does the olfactory
system detect over 10,000 different odours?

In the year 2004, the Nobel Prize in Physiology went to Linda Buck and Richard
Axel for their research on the olfactory system which has given us a better
understanding of the system. Buck and Axel (1991) found that each olfactory
receptor cell contains only one kind of receptor. Each type of receptor can detect
certain molecules, some with more intensity than others. Olfactory receptors
respond to the sub-molecular characteristics of chemicals. For example, one type
of receptor may respond to any chemical that contains a hydrocarbon chain of a
specific pattern (Wilson, 2007). Essentially, receptors respond to many different
odours with the condition that they share a specific characteristic. Then, the brain
(olfactory bulb and olfactory cortex) receives information about the pattern or
combination of receptors that are stimulated at any given time and interprets that
pattern with regards to old patterns that have been experienced before and other
relevant information. What we perceive as smell is the interpreted pattern
(Wilson, 2007).

We use our sense of smell to determine whether food is fresh or stale and safe to
eat. We can use our sense of smell to track down where a certain smell is coming
from although it may not be as intense or sensitive as the sense of smell of a dog.
Dogs have about 200 million smell receptors while we only have 10 million. For
example, you may smell coffee as you are leaving the LRT station, and follow
your nose to lead you to the coffee. An interesting fact about the neurons in the
olfactory system is that they, unlike neurons from other sensory systems, tend to
be replaced only after being damaged. Unlike other sensory systems, messages
are not sent through the thalamus (Santrock, 2005).

Our sense of smell is also affected by the temperature of the food. Hot food tends
to release more aromas. Our sense of smell enhances our sense of taste. The
stimuli for smell are airborne molecules that can dissolve in water or fat
(Sternberg, 2001).

Like our other senses, our sense of smell also goes through adaptation. For
example, when you wear perfume, you may only smell it initially but after a few
hours you are not able to smell your own perfume although people around you
can still smell it (Zimbardo, Weber & Johnson, 2003).

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1. How do we identify different scents?

2. What is the main function of smell?
3. Give your own example of smell adaptation.


The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It is responsible for:
(a) Protecting you against surface injuries;
(b) Holding in body fluids;
(c) Regulating body temperature;
(d) Responding to sensations such as warmth, pressure, cold and pain; and
(e) Influencing your physical and mental well-being as you develop.

We receive a lot of information about our surroundings through our skin. The
skin consists of a large amount of nerve receptors spread around the entire
surface of our body that send sensory data to our brain to be interpreted. There
are various specialised receptors cells that respond to different types of contact
with the skin. For example, some receptor cells respond best when something is
rubbed against the skin while others respond best when minimal pressure is
placed against the skin by small objects (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).

There are also different receptor cells that respond to warmth and coldness. The
skinÊs sensitivity to pressure is different all over the body. We have the most
receptor cells on our fingertips and on our tongue. Our back, legs and stomach are
some of the less sensitive areas. The sensory feedback we get from the receptor
cells on our tongue and fingertips enables effective eating and touching which are
among the most important functions of the skin (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).


What are the main functions of our skin?

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Essentially, skin receptors are responsible for the cutaneous sensations of

pressure, temperature and pain. However, the relationship between the receptors
and our sensory experience is a delicate one. Our brains have to make an
educated guess about the temperature by combining information provided by
the different receptors. This is a complex task. For example, how does our brain
determine skin temperature? When it is cold, the receptors which are sensitive to
cold increase their firing rate as the skin cools down, and decrease their firing
rate as the skin gets warmer. Similarly, the receptors that are sensitive to warmth
increase their firing when the skin is warm, and slow down their firing rate as the
skin gets cooler (Morris & Maisto, 2001). What happens then when you touch
something cold and hot at the same time? Both the receptors which are sensitive
to cold and heat are activated and send signals to the brain at the same time. The
brain interprets the mixed signals of hot and cold as hot. This phenomenon is
known as paradoxical heat (Morris & Maisto, 2001).

Figure 3.8 is a microscopic picture of the skin. The epidermis refers to the outer
layer of the skin. The dermis refers to the inner layer of skin. The receptors cells
found on our skin are generally referred to as somatosensory receptors. The
receptors responsible for touch or pressure are referred to as mechanoreceptors.
The receptors that are sources of information about temperature are called
thermoreceptors (Davis & Palladino, 2000).

Figure 3.8: Skin


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Table 3.3 shows examples of somatosensory receptors located from the outer
layer of skin (epidermis) to the deeper layer of skin (dermis).

Table 3.3: Somatosensory Receptors and Their Functions

Somatosensory Receptors and Their Functions

Somatosensory Receptors Function

Meissner corpuscles Receptors that respond to light pressure. For
example, when you move your fingers
through your hair.
Merkel disks Receptors that respond to steady pressure of
small objects.
Ruffini endings Receptors that respond to pressure of large
Pacinian corpuscles Receptors that respond best to touch.
Free nerve endings Receptors that respond to pain and

Source: Davis and Palladino (2000)


1. Describe the five somatosensory receptors and their functions.

2. Explain the paradoxical heat phenomenon in your own words.


The gustatory system is the scientific name for the system that enables us to taste.
Now, we will learn about the component parts of this incredible system and how
they all work together to produce our perception of taste.

If you look closely at the surface of your tongue, you will notice that it has a
rather bumpy appearance. What you are looking at is called papillae. There are
four kinds of papillae. Table 3.4 shows the types of papillae, their characteristics
and location on the tongue.

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Table 3.4: Types of Papillae, Their Characteristics and Location

Types of Papillae, Their Characteristics and Location

Papillae Characteristics Location
Filiform papillae Cone shaped All over the tongue
Fungiform papillae Mushroom shaped Sides and tip of the tongue
Foliate papillae Leaf shaped Sides of the tongue
Circumvallate papillae Flat mounds Back of the tongue

Source: Sekuler & Blake (1994)

The only type of papillae that does not have taste buds is the filiform papillae. If
you were to put some salt right at the centre of your tongue, you would not taste
anything. All other papillae contain clusters of taste receptor cells known as taste
buds (onion shaped cells). Although most of our taste buds are located on the
tongue, there are also taste buds located on the roof of your mouth, inside your
cheeks and at the back of your throat (Davis & Palladino, 2000). Our tongue
contains around 10,000 taste buds, and each taste bud contains around 50
receptor cells. At the tip of each receptor are short hair-like structures called
microvilli, which when stimulated, send electrical impulses to the brain
(Gazzaniga & Heatherton, 2003). Just as light is the stimulus for vision, molecules
that dissolve in liquid or substances that dissolve in saliva are the stimuli for
taste. The nerves that carry information about taste also transmit messages about
the temperature and texture of food, swallowing and chewing. Figure 3.9
illustrates our taste bud.

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Figure 3.9: Taste bud

Source: Boroditsky, L. Lecturer. (1999).Taste bud. Retrieved October 20, 2010, from www


1. In your own words, describe how we taste.

2. What are the stimuli for taste?

Our perception of taste is affected by many factors such as our emotions,

expectations, experiences, genes, environment and age. In this subtopic, we will
learn about how our perception of taste is influenced by both external and
internal factors. The way I perceive the taste of spinach may be very different
from your perception. Let us find out why.

How do we develop taste preferences? Why does someone hate spinach but love
chocolate? Many scientists believe that the food we eat in our early years has a
direct link with our taste preferences and eating habits now. Scientists have also
found a strong relation between the food our mothers ate when we were still in
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the womb, and our taste preferences now (Drewnowski, 1997). As we discussed
earlier, infants have a stronger sense of taste compared to other senses. Our sense
of taste is one of the first ways we learn about the world around us. This is why
infants typically stuff everything they see into their mouths.

Humans generally have a very diverse sense of taste preferences, thanks largely
to the role of globalisation. It is now easier than ever to explore different tastes
from all over the world. According to evolutionary psychology, our sense of taste
tells us to avoid unfamiliar food (Smith & Margolskee, 2001). However, since we
no longer need to forage for food and we can buy it from the supermarkets, we
take it for granted that what we get from the supermarkets is safe for
consumption. Therefore, without that worry in mind, we have become explorers
of a vast myriad of tastes. If you think about it, one of the first reasons our
ancestors set sail and started exploring the world was because of the demand for
flavour which led to the spice trade.

Our taste preferences are basically determined by several factors such as genes,
environment, experience and age (Drewnowski, 1997). Genes give us a
predetermined sense of taste. For example, if both your parents are Indian, then
there is a very high likelihood that you will also have a predetermined taste
preference for spicy food. Our environment also plays an important role by
opening up new taste experiences for us. For example, even though you may
have genes that give you a predetermined taste preference for spicy food, you
may likely develop taste preferences for European food as well if you grew up in
Europe. As for the age factor, babies innately prefer sweet food and reject bitter
food. Then as they grow older, they start exploring different tastes.

Experience also plays an important role in taste preferences. For example,

children typically develop their taste preferences through exposure and
association. Children who have been exposed to fast food early and often will
most likely continue to eat fast food throughout their adulthood (Schlosser,
2002). The food that we enjoyed eating as children usually tend to end up as our
„comfort food‰ today. When we are emotionally disturbed, we tend to indulge in
„comfort food‰. As a consequence, obesity is a big problem today. We also learn
to associate certain tastes with certain emotions or feelings (Smith & Margolskee,
2001). For example, you may remember going to McDonalds to celebrate your
birthday as a child and feeling very happy. As an adult, you may still associate
meals from McDonalds with a feeling of happiness. Similarly, we may develop
food aversions, especially if we become sick after eating a certain kind of food,
even though that food may not be the cause of the sickness.

Our preferences for certain food are also affected by their colour (Drewnowski,
1997). For example, blue orange juice does not taste as good as orange orange

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juice. You can try this out yourself at home; just add some green food colouring
to a glass of milk and try drinking it. This is because for thousands of years,
humans have relied on their visual sense to identify food which is good to eat.
For example, the colour of a fruit tells us whether it is ripe. Much of the foods
that we consume today have added colouring. For example, yellow colouring is
often added to margarine which is actually a pale yellow colour to make it
„taste‰ better.

The food industry today has exploited the knowledge and technology available
to produce food that tastes undeniably good but with very low nutritional value
at a low cost. One example is food that is mass produced such as processed food
and fast food. The flavour industry has become a success story by creating
flavours that are addictive and literally mouth-watering. It has been found that
the combination of fat, salt and sugar with thousands of other chemicals added to
fast food make it taste and smell simply irresistible to most. Food technologists
have even tampered with the texture of our food. For example, the vegetables at
McDonalds contain different chemicals to make them crispy and fresh-tasting.
The typical strawberry flavour which can be found in a whole range of food
products today consists of over 50 different chemicals so skilfully chosen and
combined that they imitate the taste of real strawberries (Schlosser, 2002).

If you open your fridge and take a look at the labels on the food products, you
will find that the list of ingredients will either contain artificial flavour and/or
natural flavour. Natural flavour does not in any case mean that it contains fewer
chemicals and is healthier for you. It only means that it has been produced using
different methods (Schlosser, 2002). There are many other ingredients that are not
written on that label and many others that we are simply ignorant of. Maybe
there is a need to worry about the food that you get from the supermarket as it
does not seem to be that safe to consume after all.


In your own words, explain taste perception.

 There are two main factors that enable us to see and perceive the world
around us: light and the visual system.

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 Our visual system consists of three main parts: eyes, visual pathways and
visual centres of the brain. Our eyes capture light; the visual pathways (created
mainly by the optic nerve and optic chiasm) carry information from the eye to
the brain; and the visual centres of the brain interpret the information.

 The auditory system consists of the ear and parts of the brain. The ear can be
divided into three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

 Apart from hearing, our ears are also responsible for creating balance and
providing us with a sense of orientation in our environment.

 The primary function of our sense of taste is to prevent us from eating

poisonous food and making sure that we eat nutritious food.

 The five basic taste qualities are: sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami.

 Our sense of taste interacts very closely with our sense of smell.

 Our taste preferences are determined by several factors such as genes,

environment, experience and age.

 The functions of the skin are to protect you from surface injuries, hold in
body fluids and regulate body temperature.

 Skin receptors are responsible for the cutaneous sensations of pressure,

temperature and pain.

Basilar membrane Merkel disks

Circumvallate papillae Pacinian corpuscles
Cochlea Photoreceptor cells
Decibels Pupil
Filiform papillae Retina
Foliate papillae Rods
Fungiform papillae Ruffini endings
Gustatory system Small nerve fibres
Meissner corpuscles Somatosensory receptors

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Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Drewnowski, A. (1997). Taste preferences and food intake. Annual Review of
Nutrition, 17, 237-253.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R.J. & Zimbardo, P.G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Myers, D. G. (2002). Exploring psychology (5th ed.). New York: Worth
Schlosser, E. (2002). Fast food nation. Penguin Books.
Sekuler, R., & Blake, R. (1994). Perception (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.
Smith, D.V. & Margolskee, R.F. (2001). Making sense of taste. Scientific American
Magazine (March 2001 ed). Retrieved October 6, 2009, from
Wenner, M. (2008). Like the taste of chalk? YouÊre in luck ă humans may be able
to taste calcium. Scientific American Magazine (August 2008 ed).
Retrieved October 6, 2009, from

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Topic  Consciousness
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Describe consciousness;
2. List the stages of sleep;
3. Explain why we dream;
4. Define hypnosis; and
5. Identify the effects of psychoactive drugs.


Figure 4.1: Comic jokes on consciousness

Source: Rex May. (Professional writer, gagwriter and cartoonist). (2008). Raising
Her Consciousness [Drawing], Retrieved November 8, 2010, from

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Let us ponder the joke shown in Figure 4.1. Do you know what consciousness is?
Let us read through the explanation given.

In everyday language, the word consciousness often means „being alert‰.

However, psychologists define consciousness in a broader sense to mean our
level of awareness during various mental processes. Sleeping, dreaming,
meditating and wakefulness are all states of consciousness (Morris & Maisto,

Our consciousness seems to have a mind of its own. For example, instead of
focusing on a specific task like watching a movie, our mind wanders from the
external world to the internal world. We start to daydream and so on. William
James made the observation that our waking consciousness is seldom fixed on
any one event for a period of time. Instead, it seems to flow from one event to
another, from past to present and from the external world to the internal world.

Give three examples of the states of consciousness that you
experience everyday.


How do you define consciousness? Our consciousness is made up of a
continuous flow of awareness, a stream of consciousness (Huffman, Vernoy &
Vernoy, 1997). The current definition of consciousness from Huffman (2007)
refers to an organismÊs awareness of its own self and surroundings.

In simple terms, consciousness is the awareness of internal and external stimuli.

There are four types of consciousness that you need to know.
(a) Awareness of external events (your boss just asked you a challenging
(b) Awareness of internal events (your heart is beating faster and your palms
are sweaty);
(c) Awareness of yourself having the unique experience; and
(d) Awareness about your thoughts on the experience.

In other words, according to Weiten (2001), consciousness is personal awareness.

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There are different levels of consciousness (as shown in Figure 4.2). For example,
a person in a coma has a very low level of awareness compared to a person who
is dreaming.

Figure 4.2: Levels of consciousness

Let us discuss them separately.

(a) High level awareness is characterised by controlled processes, and requires
focused attention. It refers to the level of awareness you are in when you
are concentrating on solving a problem, for example.
(b) Middle level awareness is characterised by automatic processes in which
you are aware, but only minimal attention is required. For example, you
may be able to drive home from work without paying much attention to it
because it has become an automatic process. Another example of middle
level awareness is daydreaming.
(c) Minimal or no awareness is characterised by the unconscious mind that
was suggested by Freud. The unconsciousness or lowest level of awareness
can be caused by head injuries or a coma.

One typical feature of consciousness is that the contents of consciousness are

continually changing. If you were to record your thoughts, you would find that
your thoughts seem to flow, fluctuate and wander all over the place.
Consciousness is very much the same. For example, even when we sleep, we
continue to maintain some kind of awareness. When we sleep, consciousness
moves through a series of phases. The essential nature of consciousness can be
described as one that is continually changing and moving (Weiten, 2001).

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Psychologists generally divide consciousness into two categories, which are

waking consciousness and altered states of consciousness (see Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3: Two categories of consciousness

Let us discuss them one by one.

(a) Waking Consciousness

Refers to our personal awareness of thoughts, feelings and perceptions that
occur when we are awake and alert. Waking consciousness is very much
tuned into the external world.

(b) Altered States of Consciousness

Is different from waking consciousness in the sense that we become
detached in varying degrees from the external world (Morris and Maisto,
2001). For example, sleeping, dreaming and daydreaming are altered states.
Other altered states of consciousness can be induced by hypnosis,
meditation and drugs.

Why do we experience consciousness? From an evolutionary perspective, it may

be that consciousness evolved in order to allow our ancestors to think through
different alternatives before choosing the best course of action. Otherwise, simply
acting without thinking through the best course of action could lead to life
threatening outcomes (Weiten, 2001).

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4.1.1 Altered States of Consciousness

Altered states of consciousness refer to any state of consciousness other than
normal waking consciousness. Now, let us look at some of the main
characteristics of altered states of consciousness:
(a) Changes in perception and attention processes ă sense of time may be
(b) Changes in memory functioning ă a person may not remember the party
last night because he had too much to drink.
(c) Changes in higher level thought processes ă decision making and judgment
may be impaired (e.g. drunk driving).
(d) Changes in emotional feeling and self-control ă you may lose your
inhibitions, be more confident, or feel numb (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy,

Generally, it takes deliberate effort to enter an altered state of consciousness. For

example, many people experiment with hypnosis, meditation and mind-altering
drugs in order to reach an altered state. However, daydreaming is a universal
altered state of consciousness that occurs almost automatically. We usually
daydream when we want to escape the demands of the external world. For
example, you might start to daydream while attending a boring staff meeting
(Morris & Maisto, 2001).

Through the ages, people have looked for ways to alter their consciousness. Some
of the more popular methods include taking drugs, meditation, fasting, chanting
and going into a trance. Why are people so interested in altering their
consciousness? See Figure 4.4.

Figure 4.4: Ways to alter consciousness

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Let us discuss them separately.

(a) Sacred Rituals

Many people from different cultures seek an altered state of consciousness
as a pathway to spiritual enlightenment. In some cultures they meditate,
and in others, they take drugs. For example, Rastafarians who originate
from Jamaica, often smoke marijuana as part of their religious rituals.

(b) Social Interactions

Many cultures induce an altered state of consciousness as an integral part of
their social gatherings. For example, in the West, it is common to serve
alcohol in various types of social gatherings such as weddings, funerals and
business meetings.

(c) Individual Rewards

People seek an altered state of consciousness on an individual level because
it provides a pleasurable escape from reality (Kalat, 1990).


1. List some characteristics of altered states of consciousness.

2. Give three reasons why people seek to alter their consciousness.

Have you ever wondered why some people like waking up early in the morning,
while others like to sleep till noon? Let us discuss biological rhythms next to find
out more.

Biological rhythms are partly responsible for shaping our variations in

consciousness. In fact, rhythm encompasses all of nature. For example, the four
seasons, and night and day resemble rhythms present in nature. In the same way,
we also experience biological rhythms. Biological rhythms can be defined as
periodic fluctuations in physiological functioning (Weiten, 2001). Circadian
rhythms help to regulate our sleep patterns. For example, if you are used to
going to sleep at midnight every night, then you will most likely automatically
feel sleepy at this time every day. Sleep occurs in rhythms.

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Human behaviour is affected by four basic biological rhythms, as shown in

Figure 4.5:

Figure 4.5: Four basic biological rhythms

Let us look at them one by one.

(a) The yearly or seasonal cycle, which is related to depression;
(b) The monthly or lunar cycle which also corresponds with the female
menstrual cycle;
(c) The 24-hour daily cycle (circadian rhythms); and
(d) The 90 minute rest-activity cycle, which is related to variations in alertness
and daydreaming (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997).

Flying across several time zones can disrupt your circadian rhythms. After a long
flight, our sleep patterns are disrupted and we experience what is known as jet
lag. We may feel tired, irritable and sluggish for the first few days following the
flight. Similarly, people who work on shifts experience the same problem.

What controls the circadian rhythms? Essentially the hormone levels of

epinephrine and melatonin determine when we feel alert and when we feel
sleepy. The hormone epinephrine causes our body to stay alert whereas
melatonin causes us to feel sleepy. Epinephrine levels reach their peak in the late
morning then consistently decrease until around midnight when they suddenly
drop to a very low level and remain there until morning.

How do scientists study sleep and dreaming? They use the electroencephalogram
(EEG) where electrodes are attached to the scalp to measure brain wave activity.

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Why do we sleep? There are two main theories, as shown in Figure 4.6.

Figure 4.6: Two main theories why we sleep

Let us discuss them separately.

(i) Repair/restoration theory

Sleep helps us to recover from physical tiredness, mental fatigue and
emotional demands (Weiten, 2001).

(ii) Evolutionary/circadian theory

Sleep is part of the biological rhythm and evolved as a means of conserving
energy. This theory helps explain why different species have different sleep
patterns. For example, cats sleep about 19 hours a day because they are
relatively safe in their environment (they are not hunted) and are able to
find food easily. On the other hand, horses sleep about three hours a day
because their diets require constant foraging for food (Kalat, 1990).

Occasionally, all of us face some problems with our sleeping patterns. There are
nights when we just cannot seem to fall asleep. If you have experienced this for a
period of time, you would have realised how it can impair your normal
functioning throughout the day. You may not be able to concentrate properly
and may make careless mistakes in your work and so on. People who suffer from
sleep disorders have similar disturbances in their sleep patterns.

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There are two sleep disorder patterns, which are shown in Figure 4.7.

Figure 4.7: Two sleep disorder patterns

Let us discuss them separately.

(a) Insomnia
Is a sleep disorder characterised by the difficulty in falling asleep or
remaining asleep throughout the night. Insomnia may be caused by
stressful life events and may be temporary, or they may be more persistent
when caused by deeper psychological problems such as depression.
Insomnia patients often resort to taking sleeping pills to help them sleep.
However, sleeping pills lose their effectiveness after a while, and also have
negative side-effects including memory loss and anxiety.

(b) Apnea
Is another sleeping disorder characterised by difficulty in breathing during
the night and feelings of exhaustion during the day. People suffering from
apnea typically feel exhausted during the day because they are disturbed
by breathing difficulties at night. They are stirred to a state of arousal close
to waking consciousness hundreds of times a night when the level of
carbon dioxide in the blood increases to a certain point.

People with insomnia and apnea both suffer from lack of sleep and often crave
for more. However, too much sleep can also disturb normal functioning. People
suffering from narcolepsy may sleep off without warning in the middle of a
conversation or meal. They often experience a sudden loss of muscle tone
following moments of emotional excitement such as anger or sexual arousal. One
symptom of narcolepsy is when you immediately enter the dreaming stage after
you fall asleep. Narcolepsy is caused by a defect in the central nervous system.

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1. What are circadian rhythms?

2. Why do we sleep? Explain the two different theories.

4.2.1 Stages of Sleep

As we now know, sleep occurs in rhythms. When you are sleeping, you go
through a series of five stages. Let us discuss the changes that happen during
each of these stages.

Before we enter Stage 1 of sleep (refer to Table 4.1), we experience a state of

wakefulness and alertness. The EEG wave recording will show patterns
associated with normal wakefulness called beta waves. Then it will move to the
slower alpha waves which indicate drowsy relaxation (relaxed pre-sleep period).

Table 4.1: Stages of Sleep

(Delta Waves and

(Theta Waves) (Sleep Spindles) (Dreaming)
Delta Sleep)
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stages 3 & 4 Stage 5
 Transition point  Lasts about 10-  Consists of  When you reach
between 25 minutes. slow-wave stage one of
wakefulness  Brain waves sleep, during sleep again, you
and sleep that gradually which high go into the fifth
usually lasts become higher amplitude, low stage of sleep
only one to in amplitude frequency also known as
seven minutes. and slower in waves become REM (rapid eye
 Heart rate frequency as prominent in movement)
decreases as you fall deeper EEG recordings. sleep.
body into sleep.  Usually, we  This stage is
temperature reach slow- known as REM
and muscle wave sleep in sleep because of
tension decline. half an hour the movements
and stay there that happen
for about the beneath your
same length of eyelids when
time as well. you are

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(Delta Waves and

(Theta Waves) (Sleep Spindles) (Dreaming)
Delta Sleep)
Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 & 4 Stage 5
 Brief muscular  Then, the cycle  Irregular pulse
contractions is reversed, and rate and
called hypnic we begin to breathing.
jerks occur. gradually move  All muscles are
back into stage very relaxed.
one of sleep
again. This is  Even though
when things REM is a deep
start to get stage of sleep,
interesting. our brain waves
during REM are
similar to those
of when we are
awake and fully
conscious (high
frequency, low
amplitude brain
 Dreaming
happens most
often and
vividly during
REM sleep.

Source: Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology Themes & Variations (5th ed.)

Although REM sleep (stage 5) is important for our biological functioning,

non-REM sleep (stages 1 − 4) is even more important. When you have not slept
for a long time, the deep sleep you fall into or your recovery sleep consists
mainly of non-REM sleep. Only when our need for non-REM sleep is satisfied
will we fall into REM sleep. Even then, we usually spend more time in non-REM
sleep (stages 1 − 4) than in REM sleep (Kalat, 1990). Usually, people who sleep
longer, dream more.

Describe the different stages of sleep.

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People have long speculated about dreams. What are dreams and how do you
define them? Dreams are mental experiences that we go through during REM
sleep. What do people dream about? People mostly dream about themselves
instead of public or current events. Although dreams seem to come from a world
of their own, there is often an obvious and observable link between our dreams
and our waking life (Weiten, 2001). For example, we often dream about events
and people in our life. Sigmund Freud made this observation a long time ago. He
said that contents from our waking life often spill into our world of dreams.
Freud termed it day residue.

Experiments have shown that the content of your dreams can be affected by
external stimuli experienced while you are dreaming. In one experiment, subjects
were sprayed with water while they were in the REM stage of sleep (Kalat, 1990).
Some subjects woke up at this point, while others continued to sleep and were
woken up by the experiment facilitator a short time later. Forty-two per cent of
the subjects had dreams related to water such as floods, rain and rivers. The
integration of external stimuli into dreams shows that there is a link between
dreams and waking life.

Why do we dream? Sigmund Freud believed that we seek to fulfil our unmet
needs and desires from waking life through wishful thinking in dreams. Hence,
for Freud, the main purpose of dreams is wish fulfilment (Kalat, 1990). For
example, if your sexual desires are not met in waking life, you may dream about
sex more often.

According to Rosalind Cartwright (1991), the purpose of dreams is to provide us

with an opportunity to solve everyday problems through engaging in creative
thinking about problems because dreams are not restrained by logic and reason.
For example, Cartwright found that women going through divorce often dreamt
about their relationship problems. The main criticism of CartwrightÊs theory is
that just because people dream about their problems does not mean that they are
dreaming up solutions to their problems as well.

Hobson and McCarley (1995) argue that dreams are a product of explosions of
brain activity. Their activation-synthesis model suggests that dreams are the side
effects of the brain activity produced during REM sleep. According to this model,
neurons firing in the brain send random signals to the cerebral cortex. The cortex
constructs a dream to make sense of the signals. The main criticism of the
activation-synthesis model is that it cannot be used to explain dreams that occur

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outside of REM sleep and the content of dreams is more meaningful than what
this model suggests.

All these theories about dreams are just that ă theories. There is not enough solid
evidence to back up these theories, and none of them have been properly tested
due to the subjective nature of dreams, which makes it difficult to test the
theories empirically. Hence, the purpose of dreams remains a mystery.


Why do we dream? Explain the three different theories.

Everyone experiences sleep and dreams but not all people have experienced
hypnosis. How do you define hypnosis? Hypnosis involves deliberate efforts to
temporarily alter consciousness. Hypnosis is often used in psychoanalytic
therapy to bring back past memories (unconscious memories or thoughts) into
consciousness again. Hypnosis is also often used to overcome addictions such as
smoking and gambling through the power of suggestion.

Hypnosis typically produces a heightened state of suggestibility through a

systematic procedure. Let us now look at the typical procedure of hypnosis:
(a) The hypnotist will suggest to the subject that he or she is relaxing.
(b) The hypnotist repeatedly and softly tells the subject that he or she is getting
sleepy or tired.
(c) Then, the hypnotist describes in detail the bodily sensations that the subject
should be experiencing. For example, their eyelids are getting heavy and
every part of the body is totally relaxed and so on.

Gradually, most subjects give in and become hypnotised. However, not everyone
can be hypnotised. Different personality traits and the subjectÊs own beliefs about
hypnosis may be the reasons why some people are easily hypnotised and others
are not.

The EEG patterns of people in hypnosis cannot be distinguished from the EEG
patterns of normal waking states. This has led some theorists to believe that
hypnosis is not an altered state of consciousness. According to Barber (1979),

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hypnotic effects are not produced by an altered state of consciousness; rather it is

the expectations of the subject which produce hypnotic effects. For example,
when Orne (1951), a hypnotist, took subjects back to their childhood during
hypnosis and asked them to describe it, the subjects responded with detailed
descriptions. However, when Orne checked this information with what he had
obtained from the subjectsÊ parents, he found that many of the memories were
invented. This evidence suggests that hypnotised subjects are often just acting
out a role.

A popular explanation of hypnosis as an altered state of consciousness was

offered by Ernest Hilgard. Hilgard suggested that hypnosis produces a
dissociation in consciousness. Dissociation can be defined as a splitting of mental
processes into two separate, simultaneous streams of consciousness or


Define hypnosis in your own words.

Besides hypnosis, meditation is also often used to alter consciousness. Another
way is through drugs. This is often called recreational drug use. Let us discuss
the types of drugs that are most commonly used for recreational purposes.

Psychoactive drugs can be defined as chemical substances that modify mental,

emotional, or behavioural functioning. There are three types of psychoactive
drugs, as shown in Figure 4.8.

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Figure 4.8: Psychoactive drugs

Let us discuss the psychoactive drugs in more detail.

(a) Opiates
Opiates are drugs that are derived from opium. Opium is derived from the
poppy plant. The main drugs in this category are heroin, morphine, and
codeine (cough mixture).

Essentially, opiates numb you and make you sleep. Morphine is often used
clinically to relieve severe and agonising pain. Heroin provides an escape
and relief from the pain and suffering in life. However, it is also one of the
most dangerous and addictive drugs. English rock band Pink Floyd
describes the experience of taking heroin in one of their songs called
Comfortably Numb.

(b) Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are drugs that induce hallucinations or distortions in
sensory and perceptual experience. The main hallucinogens are LSD,
mescaline and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). Hallucinogens typically
increase sensory awareness and lead to a distorted sense of time. Some
people who have used hallucinogens have described them as a spiritual
experience and others a nightmare.

(c) Cannabis
Cannabis is the hemp plant from which marijuana, hashish and THC
(Tetrahydrocannibinol) are derived. THC is the active chemical ingredient

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in marijuana which is used for medical purposes in some countries to

relieve nausea associated with chemotherapy, for arthritis and so on.
Essentially, marijuana when smoked produces a mild, relaxed euphoric
effect. Negative side effects after long-term use include impaired memory
and anxiety.

Psychoactive drugs work by changing the activity of neurotransmitters in the

brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transfer information from neuron to
neuron. Amphetamines increase the release of norepinephrine and dopamine by
neurotransmitters. When used for a long period of time, both cocaine and
amphetamines can eventually lead to a depletion of dopamine and
norepinephrine. Abusers often experience severe depression and emotional
breakdowns due to the depletion of the „happy hormones‰.


How do psychoactive drugs work? Discuss.


Identify the effects of psychoactive drugs such as opiates,

hallucinogens and cannabis.

4.5.1 Drug Addiction

People can become either physically or psychologically addicted to a drug.
Physical addiction refers to the state when you must continue to take a drug to
avoid withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms from heroin and alcohol
include fever, chills, vomiting, severe aches and pains. Most other drugs with the
exception of heroin and alcohol make you psychologically dependent on them
(Weiten, 2001). Interestingly, we can get psychologically addicted to just about
anything, for example, shopping, sex and even chocolate!

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 Consciousness refers to the general state of being aware and responsive to

external and internal stimuli.

 Sleeping, dreaming, meditating and wakefulness are all states of


 Consciousness can be divided into two categories: waking consciousness and

altered states of consciousness.

 Waking consciousness refers to our personal awareness of thoughts, feelings

and perceptions that occur when we are awake and alert. Waking
consciousness is very much tuned into the external world.

 Altered states of consciousness refer to any state of consciousness other than

normal waking consciousness.

Activation ă synthesis model Hallucinogens

Altered state of consciousness Opiates
Circadian rhythms REM
Consciousness Wish fulfilment
Day residue

Barber, T. X. (1979). Suggested (hypnotic) behaviour: The trance paradigm. In E.

From & R.E Shor (Eds.).Hypnosis: Developments in research and new
perspectives. New York: Aldine.
Cartwright, R. D. (1991). Dreams that work: The relation of dream incorporation
to adaptation to stressful events. Dreaming, 1, pg. 3-9.
Hobson, J. A., & McCarley, R. W. (1995). The brain as a dream state generator: An
activation-synthesis hypothesis of the dream process. American Journal of
Psychiatry, 134, pg. 1335-1348.

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Huffman, K., Vernoy, M. ,& Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in Action (4th ed.).
John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Kalat, J. W. (1990). Introduction to psychology (2nd ed.). Wadsworth, Inc.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Orne, M. T. (1951). The mechanisms of hypnotic age regression: An experimental
study. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 46, pg. 213-225.
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology Themes & Variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

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Topic  Learning
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define learning;
2. Compare classical and operant conditioning;
3. Explain how we learn using cognitive learning theory;
4. Describe the observational learning theory; and
5. Apply learning theories in everyday life.

From the day we are born till the day we die, we never stop learning. First, we
learn how to crawl, and then walk. Hopefully by the time we die, we should
have learnt how to live and love.

In this topic, we will explore several kinds of learning. One type is learning to
associate one event with another. Learning involves the formation of concepts,
theories, ideas and other mental abstractions.


As children and even as adults, we learn many things by just observing and
imitating people. We also learn through association. Learning an association
between a stimulus (e.g. expensive toys) and a response (e.g. happiness) is called

There are many ways in which we have been conditioned without us even being
aware of it. Who conditions us? Our parents, teachers, the media and society. We
have been conditioned by the media to consume just like how dogs are trained to
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sit and „shake hands‰. We have been conditioned to associate material things
with success and happiness. Some of us realise that we have been conditioned
and work on de-conditioning ourselves as we learn what works best for us.

How do you define learning? Learning takes place whenever experience or

practice results in a relatively permanent change in behaviour or behavioural
potential (Gerrig and Zimbardo, 2008).

Learning might consist of changes in immediate behaviour. For example, you

may change your brush stroke techniques immediately after your art teacher
suggests that you try something new. Learning can also consist of changes that
can potentially be initiated but do not occur because the opportunity never
arises. For example, you may learn how to hold a golf club the proper way by
watching a golfer on television but the opportunity to do so does not arise.
Although learning is relatively permanent, learnt behaviour is not necessarily
permanent, and can possibly be unlearnt (Huffman, Vernoy and Vernoy, 1997).

Learning is a result of practice or experience ă we can learn by actively repeating

behaviour or simply from passively experiencing it (observing behaviour).

1. Describe some examples of the things that you have learnt
through conditioning.
2. Define learning in your own words.
3. Learning might consist of changes in immediate behaviour or
potential behaviour. What does this mean?

5.1.1 Classical Conditioning

Our exploration of learning begins with a Russian Nobel Prize-winning scientist
called Ivan Pavlov who discovered classical conditioning almost by accident.
Pavlov was actually studying digestion; he was measuring how much saliva
dogs produced when fed. He noticed that the dogs began to salivate even before
they tasted the food. In fact, they began salivating as soon as they heard his
footsteps. This aroused PavlovÊs curiosity and he decided to try something out.

On repeated occasions, he sounded a bell just before feeding the dogs. After
some time, the dogs began salivating as soon as the bell rang. It was as if they

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had learnt that the bell was a signal that they were going to be fed. If you have
any pets at home, you would have noticed that as well.

Figure 5.1: Classical conditioning

Source: _Conditioning.jpg

There are four basic elements in classical conditioning, as shown in Figure 5.1:
(a) The unconditioned stimulus (UCS);
(b) The unconditioned response (UCR);
(c) The conditioned stimulus (CS); and
(d) The conditioned response (CR).

The unconditioned stimulus (UCS) is an event that automatically triggers a reflex

response, which is the unconditioned response (UCR). In PavlovÊs experiment,
food in the mouth was the US, and salivation was the UR (Weiten, 2001).

The conditioned stimulus (CS) is an event that is repeatedly paired with the US.
In PavlovÊs experiment, the ringing of the bell was the CS. The learnt reaction ă
salivating at the sound of the bell ă is the conditioned response (CR).

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Let us look at the basic principles of classical conditioning as shown in Table 5.1.

Table 5.1: Basic Principles of Classical Conditioning

Basic Principles of Classical

Stimulus generalisation Occurs when stimuli similar to the original
conditioned stimulus (CS) elicit the conditioned
response (CR).
Stimulus discrimination Takes place when only CS elicits the CR.
Extinction Occurs when the UCS is repeatedly withheld and the
association between the CS and the UCS is weakened.
Spontaneous recovery Is the reappearance of CR after extinction.
Higher-order conditioning This type of conditioning occurs when a NS becomes a
conditioned stimulus (CS) through repeated pairings
with a previously CS.

Certain steps can be taken to make it easier to establish a classically conditioned

response, as shown in Figure 5.2.

Figure 5.2: Steps to establish a classically conditioned response

Let us discuss the steps one by one.

(a) Repeated Pairings of the UCS and the CS
The strength of the CS increases each time these two stimuli are paired until
it reaches a point where no further learning occurs. The conditioned
response is now fully established (Davis & Palladino, 2000).
(b) Spacing of Pairings
If the CS and UCS pairings follow each other too closely or too far apart,
learning the association is slower. If the spacing is moderate, learning
occurs faster.

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One of the practical uses of classical conditioning is commercial advertising.

Commercial advertising uses classical conditioning to sell products. Advertisers
often pair their products (neutral stimulus) with gorgeous models (UCS). The
gorgeous models automatically trigger favourable responses (UCR) in the people
viewing the ads. After repeated viewings, advertisers hope that the products (CS)
alone will elicit the same favourable responses (CR).


1. What are the two steps that should be taken in order to make it
easier to establish a classically conditioned response?
2. Explain in your own words how you would condition your pets
or children.
3. Other than in commercial advertising, how else is classical
conditioning put into practical use? Discuss.

5.1.2 Operant Conditioning

While Pavlov was busy with his dogs, another psychologist by the name of
Edward Lee Thorndike was studying how cats learn. Thorndike confined a
hungry cat in a simple wooden cage he called the „puzzle box‰, and placed some
food right outside the box where the cat could still see and smell it (Refer to
Figure 5.3). To get the food, the cat had to figure out how to open the latch on the
box door, a process Thorndike timed. Initially, it took the cat some time before it
could figure out how to open the latch. However, in each subsequent trial, it took
less and less time. Eventually, the cat could escape from the box in almost no
time at all. Thorndike was a pioneer of this type of learning, which involves
responding in a certain way because of the consequences it brings. This form of
learning is known as operant conditioning. ThorndikeÊs law of effect summarises
the influences of consequences. Law of effect refers to ThorndikeÊs theory that
behaviour which is consistently rewarded will be recorded as learnt behaviour,
and behaviours which have unpleasant outcomes will be removed.

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Figure 5.3: ThorndikeÊs Puzzle Box


There are three basic principles of operant conditioning, as shown in Figure 5.4.

Figure 5.4: Principles of operant conditioning

Let us now discuss the principles of operant conditioning in greater detail.

(a) Reinforcement
Reinforcement refers to delivering a stimulus immediately or shortly after a
response, which results in increasing the chances of that response occurring
again in the future. Reinforcement is divided into four categories:
(i) Primary Reinforcers
Primary reinforcers are also sometimes known as unconditioned
reinforcers because they are naturally occurring reinforcers that have

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developed in response to our basic needs. Primary reinforcers do not

require pairing to function as a reinforcer. Examples of primary
reinforcers are water, food, sex and sleep.
(ii) Secondary Reinforcers
On the other hand, secondary reinforcers must be paired with a
stimulus that functions as a reinforcer. For example, if money is
paired with the sound of water running, running water then becomes
the secondary reinforcer.
(iii) Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement happens when the rate of behaviour increases
due to the addition of a stimulus shortly after a response, for example,
giving food to the dog for obeying instructions to sit.
(iv) Negative Reinforcement
Negative reinforcement happens when the rate of behaviour increases
due to the removal of an unpleasant stimulus shortly after a response.
For example, a rat is placed in a cage and then given electric shocks.
The electric shocks stop as soon as the rat presses on a lever. The ratÊs
behaviour of pressing on the lever is reinforced by the consequence of
stopping the shocks. Negative reinforcement is often confused with
punishment but they are, in fact, very different.

(b) Punishment
Punishment refers to any event which decreases the probability of
behaviour occurring again. Punishment is different from negative
reinforcement. Negative reinforcement strengthens behaviour by removing
something unpleasant from the environment. In contrast, punishment adds
something unpleasant to the environment to weaken behaviour. For
example, if you were to receive a heavy fine for littering, the behaviour of
littering would be weakened the next time. However, as we can observe
from real life, punishment does not always work. Why? In order for
punishment to be effective, it has to be swift ă meaning punishment should
not be delayed and it should be put into action immediately after the
unwanted behaviour has taken place.

Punishment should also be consistent. If you punish your child for hitting
his sister, but not for hitting the dog, then he is most likely to do it again. In
some cases, even the mere threat of punishment is enough to remove
unwanted behaviour. This is called avoidance training. How effective is
punishment? Punishment does not encourage people to unlearn behaviours
or teach them how to behave better. Rather, if the threat of punishment is
removed, the negative behaviour is likely to occur again. Furthermore,
punishment also induces negative feelings which can hinder the learning of

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new, more desirable behaviours. For example, if a child is punished for

giving the wrong answer, the child may become very frustrated and unsure
of himself. Besides that, punishment makes people angry, and angry people
tend to be more aggressive.

(c) Schedules of Reinforcement

Schedules of reinforcement refer to the rule in operant conditioning for
determining when and how often reinforcers will be delivered. There are
two types of schedules of reinforcement (Refer to Figure 5.4).
(i) Continuous Reinforcement
Continuous reinforcement results in behaviour that will persist for a
shorter time compared to behaviour learnt by partial reinforcement.
When people only receive reinforcements occasionally, they learn not
to expect reinforcement after every response; instead they respond
continuously hoping that eventually they will receive the desired
outcome (Morris & Maisto, 2001). Vending machines demonstrate the
effect of continuous reinforcement efficiently. Each time you put
money into a vending machine, you expect to get something in return
for your money. When you do not get anything in return for your
money, you do not put your money into the vending machine again.
However, if you put your money into a casino slot machine, and
receive nothing in return, you are still most likely to keep putting
money into the machine hoping that you will receive something the
next time. The casino slot machine demonstrates the concept of partial
(ii) Partial Reinforcement
Partial reinforcements are either fixed or variable. Table 5.2 explains
fixed ratio and variable ratio schedules; and fixed interval and
variable interval schedules by providing examples of these schedules
of reinforcement in everyday life.

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Table 5.2: Schedules of Reinforcement and Examples

Schedules of Reinforcement Example

Fixed ratio schedule: The correct response Workers may be paid only after they
is reinforced after a fixed number of correct produce 50 pairs of shoes.
Variable ratio schedule: A varying number Sales commissions: You have to talk to
of correct responses must occur before many customers before making a sale. The
reinforcement. number of people you talk to determines
when you are rewarded with a sale, and
this number will vary.
Fixed interval schedule: The correct You have an exam coming up and you
response is reinforced after a fixed length have not studied. You will have to make
of time since the last reinforcement. up for all the time you have wasted
procrastinating by cramming for the exam
with the little time you have left.
Variable interval schedule: The correct Surprise quizzes make you study more
response is reinforced after varying lengths consistently because you never know when
of time following the last reinforcement. they will take place, and you have to be
ready all the time just in case.

Source: Adapted from Morris & Maisto (2001)

There are two elements of operant conditioning, as shown in Figure 5.5.

Figure 5.5: Elements of operant conditioning

Let us discuss the elements of operant conditioning one by one.

Ć Emitted behaviour
There is one major difference between classical conditioning and operant
conditioning. In classical conditioning, a response is automatically triggered
by some stimulus. For example, food in the mouth automatically triggers
salivation. In contrast, operant conditioning involves voluntary behaviour

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(Morris & Maisto, 2001). For example, ThorndikeÊs cat voluntarily attempted
to open the box door. This is called operant behaviour because it involves
operating on the environment.
Ć Consequence
Consequences which increase the chances that a behaviour will be repeated
are called reinforcers. For example, ThorndikeÊs cat gained freedom and food
for escaping from the puzzle box. In contrast, consequences which decrease
the chances that a behaviour will be repeated are called punishers.

Thorndike found that the influences of consequences can essentially follow

two paths. First, when a certain behaviour is rewarded (reinforced), the
behaviour is most likely to be performed again. Whereas, when a certain
behaviour brings about a negative effect such as punishment, the behaviour
is most likely to be suppressed. This is often referred to as the principle of
reinforcement by modern psychologists. It is not always easy to tell whether a
particular consequence will be reinforcing or punishing. We must wait to see
if the consequence increases or decreases the behaviour that comes before.
For example, you might assume that chocolate is always reinforcing for
children, but some children may not be motivated by this reward, so for them
it is not reinforcing. Hence, we must be careful when identifying
consequences as reinforcers or punishers.

Table 5.3 demonstrates the differences and similarities between classical

conditioning (CC) and operant conditioning (OC).

Table 5.3: Comparison between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

Similarities Differences
Both involve learning through association. In CC, it is a learnt association between one
stimulus and another (e.g. food and a bell).
In both cases, the responses are under the In OC, it is a learnt association between
control of stimuli in the environment. some action and a consequence.
Neither CC nor OC responses will last In CC, the responses are automatically
forever if they are not periodically triggered.
In both CC and OC, new behaviours can In OC, the responses are voluntary.
build on previously established ones.

Source: Morris & Maisto (2001)

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1. According to the principles of operant conditioning, how does

learning take place? Discuss.
2. Compare classical conditioning and operant conditioning ă what
are the main differences and similarities?


Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are considered by some
psychologists to be the only legitimate types of learning for scientific study. This
is because they can be measured and observed. However, others argue that
mental activities should not be ignored because they are of utmost importance to
learning. How do you visualise the layout of a chessboard from someone elseÊs
description of it? How do you know how to hold a knife the proper way just by
watching a cooking show on television? How do you absorb abstract concepts
such as reinforcement in your memory? You do all these things and much more
through cognitive learning. Conditioning will never be able to explain what you
are learning by reading this module. Essentially, cognitive learning refers to the
mental processes that go on inside us when we learn (Morris & Maisto, 2001).

It is difficult to design experiments in which mental processes such as thinking

and reasoning can be directly observed and measured because they are internal
experiences. This is a major reason why conditioning theories were dominant for
so long. However, Wolfgang Köhler successfully designed experiments to study
the cognitive element in learning.

Köhler believed there was more to learning than simply responding to stimuli in
a trial and error fashion. In fact, the trial and error strategy cannot be used to
solve complex problems. He was interested in studying the role of insight in
learning. Insight is a sudden flash of understanding that occurs when you are
trying to solve a problem (Weiten, 2001). For example, imagine you have spent
days trying to find a solution to a problem. Then one day, all of a sudden you
understand how to solve the problem.

Köhler used chimpanzees as the subjects of his research. He created several

different problems for his chimpanzee friends. He placed a banana just outside
the reach of a caged chimpanzee. In order to reach the banana, the chimpanzee
would have to use two bamboo sticks placed near the cage. The chimpanzee did

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not solve this problem by using the trial and error strategy like ThorndikeÊs cat,
but rather seemed to think about the problem for a period of weeks. Then, in a
flash of insight, the chimpanzee picked up the bamboo sticks and connected
them by inserting one end into the hollow end of another. With this extension,
the chimpanzee was able to reach the banana.

Edward Tolman went on to say that in order for learning to occur, the response
does not necessarily have to be reinforced, contrary to what most learning
theorists/behaviourists believed at that time. He found that a significant amount
of learning consists of latent learning, as he called it. Latent learning occurs in the
absence of any reward and the knowledge learnt remains hidden until some day
in the future when it can be finally retrieved and used.

In short, cognitive learning is the basis for many modern educational approaches
such as constructivism and problem-based learning.


We learn many things just by watching and listening to others. Essentially,
observational learning involves interaction with other people and is known to be
a form of „social learning‰.

How do you define observational learning? Observational learning or vicarious

learning is very common. We use it all the time. For example, by watching others,
we can learn how to turn on the computer and pay bills online. We also learn
how to show love or respect, as well as hostility and aggression by observing
others. We can even learn bad habits like smoking. This is one of the reasons why
cigarette advertisements have been banned on television because it is believed
that providing models of smokers would prompt people to imitate smoking
(Gazzaniga & Heatherton, 2003). However, we obviously do not imitate
everything other people do. Why are we selective in our imitation?

Let us look at some of the reasons:

(a) We do not pay attention to everything that goes on around us. We usually
opt to imitate behaviours that are modelled by someone we look up to like
a famous or attractive person, or an expert.
(b) If the behaviour expressed by the model is not memorable, it will not be
(c) If we have no motivation to perform the observed behaviour, we probably
will not show what we have learnt.

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This is the difference between learning and performance. We can learn without
any change in external behaviour that shows that we have learnt. However,
whether or not we perform depends on our motivation.

The kind of consequences associated with the observed behaviour (the rewards
or punishments) is an important motivation for acting. These consequences
(rewards or punishments) do not necessarily have to happen to the observer.
They may simply occur to the other people the observer is watching. This is
called vicarious reinforcement or vicarious punishment because the
consequences are not directly experienced by the observer; rather they are
experienced through other people. For example, if you see your father drinking
alcohol and enjoying himself, you are experiencing vicarious reinforcement of
drinking and you are much more likely to imitate it.

One of the pioneers of social learning theory is Albert Bandura, who refers to his
perspective as social cognitive theory. Bandura (1986) demonstrated in his
experiment that people can learn behaviour without being reinforced directly for
it, and that learning a behaviour and performing it are not the same thing. Three
groups of preschool children watched a film in which an adult starts hitting a
doll after it refuses to obey him. The film ended differently for the children in
each of the three groups. Those in the model-rewarded condition saw the adult
who had hit the doll being rewarded with lots of goodies and praise by a second
adult (vicarious reinforcement). Those in the model-punished condition saw the
second adult scolding and beating the adult who had hit the doll (vicarious
punishment). Finally, those in the no-consequences condition saw nothing
happen to the model as a result of his aggressive behaviour. Immediately after
watching the film, the children were escorted into another room where they
found the same doll. Each child played alone for 10 minutes while being
observed behind a one-way mirror. Much of the behaviour the children
displayed was what had been reinforced on the adult in the film.

This study teaches us an important lesson regarding how we should not provide
a model of aggression for children to follow unintentionally. Imagine you want
your child to stop hitting his sibling. You might resort to hitting the child as
punishment in order to discourage this kind of behaviour. However, hitting the
child also shows that hitting is an effective method of getting your way.
Therefore, hitting not only provides a model of aggression; it also provides
vicarious reinforcement. Both you and your child will be happier if the
punishment for hitting was not a similar form of aggression, and if the child is
also rewarded for showing kindness to others.

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1. According to observational learning theory, why are we selective
in our imitation? List three reasons.
2. Use the principles of observational learning to explain why
physical punishment increases aggressive behaviour.

 Learning takes place whenever experience or practice results in a relatively

permanent change in behaviour or behavioural potential.

 Learning an association between a stimulus (e.g. expensive toys) and a

response (e.g. happiness) is called conditioning.

 Operant conditioning involves mainly voluntary responses that are governed

by their consequences.

 Cognitive learning refers to the mental processes that go on inside us when

we learn.

 Observational learning involves interaction with other people, and is known

to be a form of „social learning‰.

Classical conditioning Observational learning

Cognitive learning Punishment
Conditioned response Reinforcement
Conditioned stimulus Unconditioned stimulus
Latent learning Unconditioned response
Neutral stimulus Vicarious conditioning

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Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R. J., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Chapter 5: Learning
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology themes & variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

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Topic  Memory
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain the basic concept of memory;
2. Describe the process of memory;
3. Differentiate several types of memory;
4. Explain the reasons for forgetting; and
5. Apply the techniques for improving memory.

It is a fact that memory is very crucial in our daily life. Just imagine living
without any ability to recall or remember anything. What will happen to us? It is,
therefore, important for us to have memory so that we can remember everyday
things such as names and faces of people, phone numbers, passwords, spellings,
appointments, where we keep our things, etc. I am sure our life would be chaotic
and disorderly if we were to lose our memory. Thus, in this topic we will discuss
the basic concept of memory, the process of memory, the stage model of memory
and types of memory. We will also look into the reasons why we are forgetful
and the ways we can improve our memory.

Before we discuss any further, search for information on the concept
and definition of memory. Then discuss it with your coursemates in
your tutorial.

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Figure 6.1: A boy trying to recall his memory

Source: Doula (2008). Retrieved December 2, 2010, from

Generally, when we talk about memory, people tend to relate it to our mental
ability to remember something and how we can retain information over a period
of time (refer to Figure 6.1). You can gauge how good your memory is by how
well you are able to store, recall, search or retrieve past events, experiences, and
certain information or knowledge acquired previously. Our memory also enables
us to remember the good and bad experiences in our life.

The study of memory began in the mid-19th century. German psychologist and
philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus (1850ă1909) applied scientific methods in the
study of memory and discovered an important relationship between the time
spent for learning and relearning. Then, he discovered the level of retention
(information) and called it the saving method. He was well-known as the pioneer
who started scientific memory research by observing his own capacity for
memorising lists of nonsensical syllables. Table 6.1 describes the definition of

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Table 6.1: Definition of Memory

Source Definition
Medical Dictionary Memory is the process of recovering information about past
events or knowledge. For example, I am still able to recall some
of my childhood experiences as well as some good and bad
experiences during primary and secondary school days.
Henry Gleitman, Alan Defined memory as the way we record the events of our lives
J. Fridlund, & Daniel and also information. This means memory is the process of
Reinsberg (2000) retention where storage and retrieval of information take place.
They also compared memory to a storehouse where thousands
of items are kept.


Can you tell how good your memory is by remembering what you have learnt in
the classroom and how much you can memorise the important points told by
your lecturer? Some of you may have a very good memory while others may not.
Why does this happen? To answer this question, you need to understand how
the process of memory takes place.

Many psychologists such as Ellen Pastorino and Susann Doyle-Portillo (2009)

describe the process of memory by using computer analogy. Through the
information processing approach (computer), you will be able to understand the
whole process of memory from acquiring to retrieving information from storage.
For example, human memory is similar to keeping important information in a
computer hard disk. For computer information storage, we need to type the data
or input and save or store it in the file and we can retrieve or access the same
data when we need it later. The psychologists assumed that our mind worked the
same way as mentioned above. Our mind is involved in a series of processes
which allow our memory to encode, restore and retrieve information whenever

We need to look at three questions to help us understand the actual process of

memory. Let us look at these questions:
(a) How can information get INTO memory?
(b) How is information MAINTAINED in memory?
(c) How do we get information BACK from our memory?

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When we discuss about the process of memory, it concerns how humans put
information into memory (encoding), maintain the coded information (storage),
and search or get the stored information back into consciousness (retrieval). As
such, a human mind is like a computer system because we use our mental ability
to make sure of the smooth processing of information. There are several stages or
processes which enable our memory to retain or store and also trace back the

Figure 6.2 shows the three stages of memory process.

Figure 6.2: Three stages of memory process

Let us now discuss the stages in greater detail.

(a) Encoding
It refers to our effort to put some input into our memory. For example, you
meet someone at a party. He/she tells you his/her name but you do not
pay much attention and forget the name. This means you have failed to
learn or encode the name in your memory. Encoding here means the way
we key in or put the information in our memory.
(b) Storage
It means the place where we keep or retain information in our memory.
According to Henry Gleitman, Alan J. Fridlund, and Daniel Reinsberg
(2000), the encoded experience must leave some record in the nervous
system as what we call memory trace. For example, how we label or
organise the books in our library. Even though there may be thousands of
books, you are still able to search for a particular book. Therefore, the
system of information storage is very important.

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(c) Retrieval
It refers to the process of how we recall the information in our storage
(memory) and pulling it into consciousness. Gleitman, et al (2000), stated
that retrieval refers to our efforts to supply information from memory. For
example, can you remember the title of the psychology textbook you used
last semester? If you can, it means you have successfully recalled the
information from your memory into your conscious mind.


Discuss the process of memory with your classmates and share your
view with the others.


All of us have different capacities for memory. Some of us may have a very high
capacity to memorise information. For example, some students may be able to
memorise many words in the dictionary or facts in the textbook while others may
not. This indicates that each individual possesses his own capacity for memory.
To learn more about human memory, we will examine a memory model.

The most common and basic model of memory is Memory Stage Model by
Atkinson and ShriffinÊs (1968). This model explains the basic structure and
function of memory and outlines three distinct stages of memory, as shown in
Figure 6.3.

Figure 6.3: Memory stage model

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The types of memory are different in terms of capacity, duration and function.
Let us now study the stages in greater detail.
(a) Sensory Memory
Sensory memory is sometimes also known as iconic memory. Sensory
memory preserves incoming sensory information (in its original sensory
form) for only a few seconds. This means that sensory memory holds very
brief storage of information. For example, „I see an advertisement board
with some attractive wordings but I cannot remember all the wordings
once I pass it‰.
Sensory storage implies that something perceptual takes place. In this
context, sensory storage refers to images (it can also be vision) or more
precisely, after-images. Although the actual stimulus may have
disappeared, we may still perceive it for a few seconds. Sometimes it may
be a case of you saying „I have seen it before it but I just canÊt remember
where I have seen it!‰.
(b) Short-term Memory
Short-term memory has a limited duration of memory where you can retain
the information for about only 20 seconds. Short-term memory has a
limited capacity too. For example, you may be able to recall a few things at
a time and then, you may not be able to recall them after that. Another
example, you want to call your friend and refer to your business card folder
to get the phone number. After looking at the number, you make the call
but immediately after that, you forget the number, right?

It is possible to extend the duration of short-term memory to approximately

30 seconds by engaging in a process called Maintenance Rehearsal. It
involves the process of repeatedly verbalising or thinking about the
information. For example, I keep repeating a name or information.
(c) Long-term Memory
Long-term memory has unlimited capacity and can be retained for a very
long time. For example, you can remember your professorÊs name forever,
right? Repetition and elaborative rehearsal are some of the effective
strategies to help you store information for long-term memory. For
example, you may not know how to use your new handphone, but after
using it for a while, you can remember all the steps to operate it.

Kalad (2002) stated that long-term and short-term memories are different terms
of memory. These different retention intervals are bridged by different memory
systems. According to him, short-term memory is sometimes also known as
working memory. Working memory holds information for short intervals.

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For instance, you work as a cashier at a hypermarket. You can remember the total
amount which has to be paid by your customer at that moment but when the
next customer comes along you would have already forgotten the previous one.

In contrast, Gleitman, et al (2000), said that in order to enter long-term memory,

the information coded must remain in working memory for a short while.
According to them, long-term memory is where the information learnt a long
time ago is likely to be stored for long periods or permanently. This memory
system allows information to lie dormant for long periods of time, meaning that
long-term memory stores information for much longer than working memory.
Sometimes, it can be stored for a lifetime.

Based on the above explanation, we can thus conclude that short-term and long-
term memories are different in terms of capacity and duration. If we want to
enhance our information from short-term memory to long-term memory, the
information stored must remain in working memory for a short period.
According to Waugh and Norman (1965), the means for maintaining the
information is by using the technique of rehearsal.

There are some significant differences between sensory memory, short-term

memory and long-term memory. They are shown in Table 6.2.

Table 6.2: Differences between Sensory, Short-term and Long-term Memory

Retriever Capacity Duration Rehearsal
Stage Model
Sensory Retriever not Almost zero Only lasts for a Rehearsal not
Memory required memory few seconds involved
Short-term Retriever not Limited memory Not more than Rehearsal could
Memory involved 20 seconds be involved only
one or two times
Long-term Need retriever Very huge Can last for a Heavily
Memory such as a hint to capacity lifetime involved
recall rehearsal

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In addition, we will identify eight types of memory as shown in Figure 6.4.

Figure 6.4: Types of memory

Let us now study the types in greater detail.

(a) Primacy and Recency

Primacy means when we are receiving information, the information
perceived first is more likely to be remembered.
On the other hand, recency means information perceived towards the last part
of the event is more likely to be remembered. This means that information in
the "middle" seems to be forgotten and is less likely to be remembered.

(b) Elaborative Rehearsal

In order to improve our memory from short-term to long-term, we can use
the technique to connect new information with what was previously stored
in our memory which already exists as associative structures. For example,
a teacher may ask the students to relate the new chapter on accounting with
the previous chapter. Then, they may easily follow the new lesson.

(c) Procedural Memory

This is the most basic type of long-term memory. Normally it involves
memories of rudimentary procedures and behaviours such as our memory
in reading, eating and writing. Sometimes, people call it Declarative
Memory. The reason is it relates to an additional and basic category like
factual information. For example, we can memorise our friendsÊ names and
their birthdays.
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(d) Semantic Memory

This refers to our ability to remember certain symbols, concepts and
knowledge. For example, when you see a traffic light, you will understand
what a red or amber light means.

(e) Episodic Memory

It refers to specific memory. This means that when we want to recall a
particular event or incident, we will search our episodic memory. For
example, you want to remember what you ate for dinner last night. In this
situation, you have to refer back to that specific event (dinner) and slowly
you may be able to recall the menu.

(f) Generic Memory

This type of memory is very important to us. Normally, generic memory
will act as our mental dictionary. It also serves as a storehouse for all our
common sense knowledge. For example, when we hear the words „red‰ or
„yellow‰, our mental dictionary will let us know what the red or yellow
colours look like. Another example is we can easily get the meaning of
someoneÊs conversation. This is because we can refer to our generic
memory to understand what it means.

(g) Explicit Memory

It means memory which we consciously use. For example, during exams,
we consciously search for or recall information stored in our memory to
answer the questions.

(h) Implicit Memory

Sometimes we do something which is influenced by the past without being
aware of it. This is what we call implicit memory. For example, you know
the correct formula to solve a particular question but you still repeat the
same mistake. This is because we are still influenced by the past experience
without realising it.

Forgetting means our memory is failing and we are not able to retain
information. In other words, we have lost or cannot retrieve the stored
information. For example, many of us find that we can hardly remember what
we have learnt in the past or even yesterdayÊs class. We often fail to memorise or
recall important facts. As such, we would like to understand why such
circumstances occur in our daily life. Nine of the reasons are shown in Figure 6.5.

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Figure 6.5: Reasons for forgetting

Let us now discuss the reasons in greater detail.

(a) Proactive Interference

It refers to previously learnt material interfering with newly learnt material.
For example, you learnt something new yesterday and then you learn
another new topic today. You have yet to fully understand or are still tied
up with yesterdayÊs learning material or concepts. As a result, you are not
able to get what your tutor is teaching today.

(b) Retroactive Interference

It refers to our ability to recall being interrupted by the new learning
material. For example, we are studying new formulae today but you have
already forgotten the previous topics. This means that the new information
is confusing you, right?

(c) No Attention
Do you agree that you are most likely to forget everything if you do not pay
attention at that moment? For example, if we sometimes just give a little bit
of attention to certain things, we can, of course, only remember certain

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(d) Retrograde Amnesia and Anterograde Amnesia

Retrograde amnesia is the loss of memory of events at a certain period of
time before brain damage or other traumas happened. On the other hand,
Anterograde amnesia is difficulty forming new memories after
experiencing a trauma (J. W. Kalad, 2002). Therefore, it is a challenge to
those who are facing this problem to remember things. For example, an
accident victim reads a magazine and finds it interesting without realising
that he has in fact read that magazine before his memory was damaged.

(e) Cue-dependent
It means our memory cannot easily retrieve information when the cue does
not match the cue present during encoding time. For example, you can
recognise your new classmate „Ali‰ in school but you are not able to
recognise him in the hypermarket. Have you experienced such a situation?

(f) Source Confusion

Source confusion can badly affect our encoding and information retrieval.
In other words, source of confusion will influence memory storage.
Therefore, make sure you clearly understand the contents as it may help
you to remember better.

(g) Nutritional Problems

We may lose our memory due to vitamin deficiencies. For example, we may
not have enough vitamin B12.

(h) Aging Factor

As people get older, they may begin to have problems with memory. One
of the most noticeable problem areas involves forgetting names. Normally,
almost everybody has this problem in their old age.

(i) Other Causes

Sometimes, we may have memory loss or problem due to amnesia, which
means unusual forgetfulness. This may be caused by ageing, alcoholism,
brain damage due to disease or injury, etc.


Are you someone who is always forgetful? Why? Discuss the reasons
with your classmates.

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Do you have a great memory? Perhaps some of us can memorise every single fact
that we read. Unfortunately, not everyone has such an outstanding memory.
There are, however, several way to improve your memory. This means you have
to really know how you are „storing and retrieving‰ information in your
memory. For example, just imagine how you are able to remove certain items on
a shelf and then replenish them easily. How do you do that? There are several
ways that can help you improve your memory, as shown in Figure 6.6.

Figure 6.6: Ways to improve the memory

Let us now study the ways in greater detail.

(a) Rehearsal
One of the important techniques to improve our memory is through
rehearsal. Rehearsal means we repeat the data again and again in our
conscious mind. This method will increase the probability of the data being
transferred to long-term storage (Henry Gleitman, Alan J. Fridlund, &
Daniel Reinsberg, 2000).

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(b) Exercise Your Mind

This means we must use our mind or brain to read, think and analyse as
much as possible. By exercising our mind, we will then be able to develop
our mind power.

(c) Spread Out Your Study Time

We cannot study all things at one time. This is because we do not know
how much we can learn and remember. If we spread out the study time, it
is more likely to help us remember things. Agree?

(d) Applying SPAR Method

The SPAR method means in order to remember something in the long term,
we should Survey, Process the meaning, Ask questions and do Revision.
This method is very useful for students. Can you try that?
Survey means to get an overview of the whole idea of a passage. Process
meaningfully refers to reading carefully and seeing how you can relate to
the ideas, etc. Asking questions will encourage you to seek more
information such as concept checks. Finally, revise refers to spending more
time studying to enhance our memory.

(e) Use the Specific Coding Strategy

If we use a good coding strategy, we are sure to find our information easily.
For example, a librarian may place a book on a shelf according to certain
codes in the retrieval system. A student can then retrieve the book easily by
using the code according to title, author, etc. Can you apply this in your
daily life?

(f) Encoding Specificity

According to the encoding specificity principle (Tulving & Thomson, 1973),
the associations you form at the time of learning will be the most effective
retrieval cues. Whatever you have experienced or whatever was happening
to you at that time becomes a potential retrieval cue for you later. For
example, when you go back to a familiar place after 10 years, you may
remember everything that you experienced 10 years ago in your mind.

(g) Mnemonic Devices

When you are required to memorise something lengthy and boring, for
example, a list of all the bones in the body, how do you do it? One effective
strategy is to connect systematic retrieval cues to each term so that you can
remember it when needed. In other words, thinking of something or
associating it with certain things may remind you of each term.

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(h) Influence of Emotionally Arousing

Do you agree that people normally remember emotionally arousing events?
For example, do you still remember your first day at school or your first
kiss? We can remember these events in great detail because we were
excited. Therefore, if you want to do a special and memorable thing for
your spouse, then do it in a very emotionally arousing romantic way.
Why are emotionally arousing events so memorable? This is because of our
physiological responses. When emotional arousal increases, the body will
release the cortisol hormones and epinephrine (adrenaline) from the
adrenal gland. Some of the cortisol goes to the brain. The epinephrine
stimulates the peripheral nerves that extend into the brain. The net effect is
increased excitement of certain brain areas that enhance memory storage,
including an area called the amygdala (Kalad, 2000; Cahill & McGaugh,
1998; Williams, Men, Clayton, & Gold, 1998).

(i) Make Associations

It is an effective technique to help you to improve your memory.
Association means you connect something that you want to remember in
your mind. For example, you can use certain landmarks to help you find
and remember the roads or places.


Identify five techniques which can help you improve your memory
capacity. Then, discuss them in your tutorial class.

 In this topic, we have discussed the basic concept of memory, the process of
memory, the memory stage model and eight types of memory.

 This topic also described the nine reasons why people always forget.

 Finally, this topic elaborated on the nine techniques of how we can improve
our memory in a very systematic and effective way.

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1. Write a short essay to tell your friend what memory is.

2. What do you know about the memory process?
3. What is the difference between sensory memory and short-term memory?
4. Test yourself on the meaning of implicit and explicit memory.
5. Describe four important techniques to enhance human memory.

Gleitman, H., Fridlund, A. J., & Reinsberg, D. (2000). Basics of psychology (5th
ed.). New York, America: Infobase Publishing.
Kalad, J. W. (2002). Introduction to psychology (6th ed.). America: Thomson
Learning, Inc.
Medical dictionary. Retrieved December 2, 2010, from www.medicinenet.
Pastorino, E. & Portillo, S. D. (2009). What is psychology? (2nd ed.). America:
Thomson Learning, Inc.

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Topic  Thinking,
7 Intelligence
and Language
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain dual-coding hypothesis;
2. Identify the three stages of problem-solving;
3. Compare algorithms and heuristics;
4. Explain theories of intelligence; and
5. Describe the interaction between language and thinking.

In this topic, we will explore the cognitive abilities associated with thinking.
Along the way, we will discover that we actually think in both pictures and
words. We will learn how concepts are formed and why they are so important.
We will also explore and discuss the complexity of human language. Finally, we
will discuss intelligence ă its definitions and methods of measurement.

Now, let us begin!

Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in acquiring, storing, retrieving
and using knowledge (Davis & Palladino, 2000). Now we know that using
language, thinking and reasoning are examples of cognitive abilities. Have you
ever wondered how we gather information about the world around us? There
are several ways ă sensation and perception, learning and memory, and thinking.
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When we think, we are actually mentally processing the information that has
been previously gathered and stored by forming ideas, reasoning, solving
problems, drawing conclusions, making decisions, expressing our thoughts, and
understanding the thoughts of others (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997).

Thinking involves a great variety of mental processes. In this topic, we will

explore mental imagery, concept formation, problem-solving, creativity and
language. However, before we get to that, we must first examine how we think.

7.1.1 How Do We Think?

Do you realise that we think by using pictures (mental images) and words (concepts)?

Now, think about these two sentences:

(a) The gigantic flying elephant, reeking from the odour of a thousand lilies in
full bloom, flew into the room and made everyone smile in wonder and
(b) The definition of a „punk‰ is an individual who believes in rebellion,
freedom and love.

According to the dual-coding hypothesis, we think by encoding information

using an imagery system and a verbal system. Each system works
independently. The imagery system is used to process real, concrete items and
pictures such as flying elephants and a painting of heaven on earth. On the other
hand, the verbal system is used for more abstract items such as spoken or written
words and concepts such as freedom and love.

The two systems are very much interconnected. For example, we can convert
verbal information such as a description of a beautiful woman into either a
visual, tactile, olfactory or auditory mental image.

One of the most well-known researchers in mental imagery wrote, „Having a

visual mental image produces the conscious experience of ÂseeingÊ, but with the
ÂmindÊs eyeÊ rather than with real ones‰(Stephen Kosslyn, 1987). Similarly, we
can also smell with our mindÊs nose, hear with our mindÊs ears and so on. For
example, imagine sinking your feet into soft, warm sand. We are able to
experience not only visual imagery, but also auditory (hearing), tactile (touch),
gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell) imagery.

Images allow us to think about things in non-verbal ways. We often find it

difficult to understand words put together to explain a concept. We find it easier
to understand a complicated concept by having a simple sketch of it drawn out
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for us. Often, when words seem to complicate issues, a simple image or sketch
can bring clarity.

The following link shows a YouTube video of a standard lecture that has been
illustrated by sketches: Images also
allow us to use concrete forms to represent complex and abstract ideas. For example,
newspapers often use pie charts and graphs to illustrate results of survey polls.


1. Explain the meaning of cognition in your own words.

2. What is the purpose of thinking?
3. Explain how we think according to the dual-coding hypothesis.

7.1.2 Concepts
Imagine suddenly finding yourself in a foreign land. Although the people are
friendly, you find it very difficult to communicate as they speak in a strange
language. You are surrounded by objects and items that you have never seen
before in your life. How would you manage in this strange, unfamiliar
environment? For the first few days, you would probably be totally disorientated
and lost. However, after a week or two, you would find that you are slowly
learning the names and uses of those once very strange objects. You are slowly
adapting. How did you manage to adapt so quickly?

The main reason that you managed to adapt so quickly is because of your ability to
form and use concepts. When we see a new object, we relate it to our existing
conceptual structure and categorise it accordingly. We tend to mentally group
together objects or events which have similar characteristics when we form concepts.

How do we learn new concepts?

(a) Hypothesis - Testing Theory
A hypothesis is formulated about how certain characteristics contribute to
the concept.

(b) Prototype Theory

We organise our concepts in terms of prototypes or best examples. When we
see a new object or encounter a new event, we determine whether it is part of
any particular concept by comparing it with a prototype of that concept.

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(c) Hierarchies
Specific concepts are grouped as subcategories within broader concepts.

Why do you think that the ability to form concepts is so important?
Discuss this with your classmates.


How do we learn new concepts? Describe and explain the three ways.

7.1.3 Problem Solving

Every day we come across problems that need to be solved and decisions that
need to be made. Deciding what to wear to work or who to marry are considered
problems. Some problems are simpler to solve than others, of course. Problem
solving consists of moving from a given state or problem to a goal or solution.

There are three main stages of problem solving as can be seen in Figure 7.1:

Figure 7.1: Problem-solving stages

Now, let us go through each stage in detail.

(a) First Stage: Preparation

(i) Identify the given facts;
(ii) Separate the relevant facts from the irrelevant; and
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(iii) Define the ultimate goal.

(b) Second Stage: Production

Produce possible solutions called hypotheses which can be generated using
two main ways:
(i) Algorithm
It often involves trying out random solutions to a problem in a
systematic manner. It almost always leads to a solution. The
disadvantage is that it may take a long time. Mathematical problems
are ideal for demonstrating algorithms. For example, an algorithm for
solving the problem 6  9 is 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6.
(ii) Heuristics
This is a faster technique. Heuristics are educated guesses developed
from past experience with similar problems. The disadvantage with
heuristics is that it may not always lead to a solution. There are
several kinds of heuristics:
 Means-end analysis is used to figure out what steps must be taken
in order to reach the goal of solving the problem.
For example, if you want to move your new bed into your house
and the doorway is too small, you would use means-end analysis.
 Working backward is used most often for solving complex
problems. This strategy starts at the goal, then works backwards
from there to the given state.
 Create subgoals which lead to solving the main goal.

(c) Third Stage: Evaluation

The hypotheses are evaluated to determine whether they meet the criteria
defined in the preparation stage. Have you ever wondered why you are
able to solve some problems so easily, while you seem to have a mental
block when trying to solve others?

There are three main barriers that prevent us from effectively solving
(i) Problem-solving set occurs when you apply only methods that have
worked in the past rather than trying new and creative ones.
(ii) Functional fixedness occurs when you are unable to recognise original
or new uses for an object because you are so familiar with its common
use (Weiten, 2001).

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(iii) Confirmation bias is the preference for information that confirms our
pre-existing positions or beliefs, while ignoring or discounting
contradictory evidence.


1. List and describe the three stages of problem solving.

2. Compare and contrast algorithms and heuristics.
3. What are two barriers to problem solving, and what is one
approach to use when faced with such a barrier?

7.1.4 Creativity
You do not necessarily have to be an artist or a musician to be considered
creative. In fact, everyone is creative in their own way and in some aspect of life.
Creativity refers to a unique way of solving problems which combines new or
unusual elements in ways that are practical, useful and meaningful to the culture
(Gardner, 1988).

Remember that creativity is not only limited to humans. KohlerÊs chimpanzees

found a creative solution to their problem (please refer to Topic 5 to refresh your
memory). The following are some examples of items usually found on creativity
tests. Try them out and see if you can guess which traits or abilities are being
(a) In five minutes, see how many words you can make out of the following
(b) In five minutes, list all the things you can do with a paperclip.

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Creative thinking is connected with the following abilities as shown in Figure 7.2:

Figure 7.2: The abilities that are connected to creative thinking

There are two major types of thinking: convergent and divergent thinking as can
be seen in Figure 7.3.

Figure 7.3: Two major types of thinking

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1. Give one example each for convergent thinking and divergent
2. List down the ways in which one can be creative.

The definition of intelligence has been the subject of much debate in the past
century. Take a minute or two to think about what being intelligent means to
you. Is it a general mental ability or is it made up of different abilities?

In the following subsections, we will discuss some of the major theories of

intelligence and intelligence tests used today.

How would you define intelligence?

7.2.1 Theories of Intelligence

According to Raymond Catell (1963, 1971), there are two types of intelligence:

(a) Fluid Intelligence

Fluid intelligence is the ability to think and reason logically, and solve
problems. Basic information-processing skills such as our analytical skills
and our ability to recognise patterns are some of the intellectual skills that
are part of fluid intelligence. We may use fluid intelligence in everyday life
to solve problems.

(b) Crystallised Intelligence

Crystallised intelligence involves the ability to use skills and knowledge
accumulated from knowledge of past experiences, education, and culture.
As we grow older and gain new knowledge and understanding,
crystallised intelligence becomes stronger. General knowledge and
vocabulary are some of the indicators of crystallised intelligence. To sum
up, fluid intelligence and crystallised intelligence work together to
complement each other.

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Early theories of intelligence mainly viewed intelligence as a general mental

ability. In contrast, most modern theories of intelligence view intelligence as
consisting of many separate abilities, each relatively independent of others. Let
us discuss two of the most influential alternative theories of intelligence.

(a) Robert SternbergÊs Triarchic Theory of Intelligence

There are three distinct kinds of intelligence: componential, experiential
and contextual. Figure 7.4 explains the theory further.

Figure 7.4: SternbergÊs triarchic theory of intelligence


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(b) Howard GardnerÊs Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Gardner lists eight distinct kinds of intelligences in his theory as shown in
Table 7.1.

Table 7.1: Howard GardnerÊs Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Intelligence Description
Intrapersonal The ability to understand yourself and use this ability to
reach your highest potential and recognising self-defeating
emotions. This will increase success in almost all careers.
Bodily/kinaesthetic Body movement, such as dancing, gymnastics or figure
skating and is usually shown by dancers, ski instructors and
Linguistic It involves language such as speaking, reading a book and
writing a story. Possible careers are novelist, journalist and
Logical/mathematical Problem solving or scientific analysis, such as following a
logical proof or solving a mathematical problem. Possible
careers include mathematican, scientist and engineer.
Spatial It involves mental maps, such as figuring out how to draw a
floor plan; people with this kind of intelligence can work as
engineers, architects and pilots.
Naturalistic Being attuned to nature, such as noticing seasonal patterns.
Possible careers are biologist and naturalist.
Musical It refers to musical skills such as singing or playing musical
instruments and possible careers related to this intelligence
are singer, musician and composer.
Interpersonal Possess good social skills such as managing a group of
people. People with this kind of intelligence can become a
salesperson, manager and teacher.

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Figure 7.5 illustrates GardnerÊs theory of multiple intelligences.

Figure 7.5: GardnerÊs theory of multiple intelligences


1. How are the early theories of intelligence different from the
modern ones?
2. Explain SternbergÊs triarchic theory in your own words.
3. List and describe the eight kinds of intelligences in GardnerÊs
theory of multiple intelligences.

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7.2.2 Intelligence Tests

In this subsection, we will discuss the two most popular intelligence tests used
today. The two intelligence tests are:
(a) Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale
Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon designed the first intelligence test in 1905
to identify children who might have difficulty in school. The current
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale measures four types of mental abilities:
verbal reasoning, visual reasoning, quantitative reasoning and short-term
memory (Morris & Maisto, 2001). For example, a child may be asked to
define words such as apple and pencil. This test is most appropriate for
children, teenagers and young adults.
(b) Wechsler Intelligence Scales
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is for adults, and is now in its
third edition (WAIS III). It was designed by David Wechsler in the late
1930s. He also created a similar test for school-going children, the Wechsler
Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III) and another one for preschool
children, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI),
now revised to WPPSI-R.

The Wechsler Intelligence Scales measure two things:

(i) Verbal Skills
The verbal scale includes simple arithmetic, vocabulary, knowledge of
general information and tests of comprehension.
(ii) Performance Skills
An example of an activity in the performance scale would be to
arrange three to five pictures so that they tell a story and arranging
blocks to match a given pattern.


1. What kind of mental abilities are measured by the Stanford-Binet

Intelligence Scale?
2. What does the Wechsler Intelligence Scales measure?

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Language facilitates our thinking. It is through language that we communicate
our thoughts, ideas and feelings. Our cognitive processes such as language and
thought share a complex interaction with one another.

Many psychologists believe that language influences the way we think and
approach problems. In many cases, our vocabulary determines how we perceive
the world around us. For example, the Eskimos have over 20 words for the word
„snow‰ because it is important to be able to identify different types of snow in
their culture and way of life. Other psychologists argue that while it may be
easier to express a particular idea in one language than in another, language does
not determine how or what we think, but is merely a reflection of our thinking.

7.3.1 What is Language?

Human language systems include several important characteristics as shown in
Figure 7.6:

Figure 7.6: Characteristics of human language systems

Let us go through each characteristic in detail.

(a) Symbolic
We use spoken sounds and written words to symbolise objects, events and
(b) Meaningful
The symbols are arbitrary, but meaningful to the people who speak it.

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(c) Generative
A restricted number of symbols can be combined in an infinite variety of
ways to generate an endless range of original messages.
(d) Structured
Sentences must be structured in a restricted number of ways.

7.3.2 The Structure of Language

Figure 7.7 shows the direction of movement in speech production and

Figure 7.7: The structure of language

Source: Morris and Maisto (2001)

Producing a sentence requires movements from thoughts and ideas to basic

sounds. Understanding a sentence involves movement from basic sounds to the
core thoughts and ideas.
(a) Phonemes
It is the smallest unit of speech sounds in a language. For example, the „ch‰
sound in the words „chair‰ and „chocolate‰.
(b) Morphemes
It is the smallest unit of meaning in a language. For example, the word
„uncomfortably‰ consists of three morphemes ă „comfort‰ (the root), the
prefix „un‰ and the suffix „ly‰.
(c) Grammar
It is a set of rules used to structure and build sentences and phrases in a

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1. Find a partner and debate:

Language influences the way we think and approach problems.
2. What are the main differences between human language and the
language that animals use to communicate with each other?

 Cognition refers to the mental processes involved in acquiring, storing,

retrieving and using knowledge.

 According to the dual-coding hypothesis, we think by encoding information

using an imagery system and a verbal system, each working independently.

 We tend to mentally group together objects or events which have similar

characteristics when we form concepts.

 There are three main stages of problem solving: preparation, production and

 Algorithm involves trying out random solutions to a problem in a systematic

manner while heuristics are educated guesses developed from past
experience with similar problems.

 Two of the most influential alternative theories of intelligence are Robert

SternbergÊs Triarchic Theory of Intelligence and Howard GardnerÊs Theory of
Multiple Intelligences.

 Our cognitive processes such as language and thought share a complex

interaction with one another.

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Algorithms Heuristics
Cognition Hypothesis-testing theory
Convergent thinking Morphemes
Divergent thinking Phonemes
Dual-coding hypothesis Problem solving set
Functional fixedness Prototype theory

Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Prentice Hall.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R. J., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology Themes & Variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Developmental

8 Psychology
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define developmental psychology;
2. Explain the issues in studying human development;
3. Explain the three major developmental theories;
4. Evaluate your own personality development; and
5. Compare the three main concerns during middle adulthood
according to EriksonÊs theory of personality development.

In Topic 8, we will learn about developmental psychology by starting off with
the definition and the issues in the study of human development. We will also
discuss prenatal, infancy and childhood development as well as adolescence,
adulthood and late adulthood.


Developmental psychology is the study of how people change from birth to old
age. Many kinds of changes take place throughout our lifespan. The changes that
psychologists are particularly interested in studying are those that take place in
thinking, language, intelligence, emotions and social behaviour. In this topic, we
will explore the various changes in development starting with conception till late
adulthood. These developmental changes include physical changes as well as
changes in cognition (the way we think), personality and moral judgments.

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Define developmental psychology.

What would happen if a little boy was raised by a pack of wolves in
the middle of the jungle? How would he develop? Would he think the
same way as we would? How would he communicate with others?
Would he be intelligent? If so, in what ways would he be intelligent?
Would he feel the same emotions? What about his social behaviour?
Discuss with your classmates.


In the study of developmental psychology, as in all fields of psychology, there
are certain theoretical issues which seem to guide the basic direction of research.
The major issues in studying human development are:

(a) Individual Characteristics versus Shared Human Traits

Each individualÊs development is unique in some ways although there are
many common patterns in human development.

(b) Stability versus Change

Some personality traits continue to persist even after major life-changing
experiences. Has your personality changed dramatically since you were a
child or has it remained fairly stable?

(c) Nature versus Nurture

The nature versus nurture debate has been going on since the time of Plato
and Aristotle. The extreme nature position believes that human behaviour
and development are determined by our genetic code while the extreme
nurture position believes that our environment, the way we are raised and
the experiences that we have determine how we develop.

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8.2.1 Research Methods in Developmental

Developmental psychologists typically use two types of research methods to
investigate the processes of change over time:
(a) Cross-sectional Studies
Cross-sectional studies investigate developmental change by observing or
testing people of different ages at the same point in time. For example, they
may investigate the development of moral consciousness by testing a group
of 10-year-olds, a group of 12-year-olds, and a group of 14-year-olds, and
then look for differences among the age groups.

(b) Longitudinal Studies

In contrast, longitudinal studies test the same people two or more times as
they grow older. For example, researchers may investigate the development
of emotions by testing a group of nine-year-olds, then wait 10 years and test
the same children again at age 19. The disadvantage of longitudinal studies
is that it can take a very long time. The biographical or retrospective study
is an alternative to longitudinal studies, and takes a much shorter time. A
longitudinal study may start testing some nine-year-olds and follow them
as they grow older; in contrast, a biographical study may test some 60-year-
olds and investigate their lives backwards. Researchers will try to
reconstruct the participantsÊ past by interviewing them and acquiring
biographical data through various sources. However, biographical data is
not as credible as longitudinal or cross-sectional data because peopleÊs
recollections of the past are not always accurate. Each of these research
methods can be used to gain a wealth of knowledge and information about
human development.


1. Describe one way in which you think your own development has
been unique in comparison with the common patterns of human
2. Find a partner to debate the nature versus nurture issue.

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Prenatal development refers to the stage of development from conception to
birth. During this period of nine months, a one cell organism will develop into a
complex human being. Essentially, this is what happens:
(a) Conception: a one cell organism called the zygote is created through the
fertilisation of the egg by the sperm.
(b) The zygote divides and implants itself in the wall of the uterus.
(c) Two weeks later, the cells begin to specialise ă some will form the infantÊs
internal organs; others will form muscles and bones. It is now called an
(d) After three months, the embryo stage ends and the foetus stage begins. At
this stage, you can start identifying limbs, a big head and a beating heart.

The course of prenatal development is divided into three stages as shown in

Table 8.1:

Table 8.1: The Course of Prenatal Development

Stage Period Description

Germinal stage 1-2 weeks  The zygote is created through fertilisation.
 Rapid cell division takes place in the zygote.
 The cell mass implants itself in the wall of the
 Placenta begins to form.
Embryonic stage 3-8 weeks  Vital organs and structures such as the heart,
spine and brain begin to form.
 Most major birth defects are due to problems
that happen during this stage as the foetus is at
its most vulnerable.
 Arms, legs, hands, feet, toes, eyes and ears are
slowly becoming recognisable.
Foetal stage 9-38 weeks  Muscles and bones begin to form.
 Sex organs begin to develop by the third month.
 Body fat is added.
 Brain cells multiply rapidly.
 Respiratory and digestive systems mature.

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Figure 8.1 illustrates the critical periods of prenatal development. The dark area
on the bars shows the most sensitive periods for various organs and structures.
During this time, these organs and structures are most vulnerable to damage.
The light part on the bars shows continued development of these organs and
structures; however they are now less sensitive and less vulnerable to damage.
Generally, organs and structures are most vulnerable to damage during the
embryonic stage when they are undergoing rapid development (Weiten, 2001).

Figure 8.1: Critical periods in human development


During this period, prenatal development can be affected by the motherÊs

nutrition, malnutrition, drug use and/or illnesses. This is because the embryo
and the foetus get their nourishment through the placenta which transmits
substances from the motherÊs bloodstream and carries waste products from the
embryo and foetus.

Do you know that almost anything the mother eats, drinks or inhales can be
transmitted through the placenta to the foetus? The same goes for drinking
alcohol, smoking or taking drugs during pregnancy which can seriously harm
the development of the foetus. It can result in mental and physical retardation
and defects. Drinking large amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can result in
the newborns being born with foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), a condition
characterised by deformities in the face and heart, stunted growth and cognitive

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Even over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin can cause bleeding in the foetus. It is
very important for the mother to eat a well-balanced diet and to avoid any kind
of harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs during pregnancy.
Also, if the mother develops an infection such as rubella (German measles),
syphilis or HIV, the foetus can be easily infected too.

1. Explain briefly in your own words what happens during the
prenatal period.
2. Describe the important developments which take place during
the three stages of prenatal development.


Contrary to popular belief, newborns are not only capable of sleeping, drinking
milk and crying, they in fact come equipped with reflexes and perceptual
abilities which help them interact with the outside world and survive.

At birth, the senses of smell, taste, hearing and touch are well developed while
visual perception is the least developed.

Motor development refers to a range of movement skills which we start

developing as infants. At birth, motor skills are limited to reflexes (involuntary
responses to stimulation) such as sucking and grasping. However, in a few short
months, infants are able to lift their heads, roll over and sit up. Soon enough they
are crawling, walking and climbing all over the place.

Newborns have not yet developed a full personality like most of us but they do
show individual differences in temperament. Some cry more, others are highly
responsive to their surroundings while still others are inactive no matter the
surroundings. The infantÊs temperament remains relatively stable over time.
Studies have shown that „shy‰ infants continue to be „shy‰ children more often
than not. Essentially, both biological and environmental factors contribute to this
stability in behaviour (Morris & Maisto, 2001).

Figure 8.2 shows the physical changes in growth and body proportions that take place
from birth to adulthood. As babies and toddlers, our heads are disproportionately
larger than our bodies. However, as we grow older, our heads become smaller in

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proportion to our body. This is because the brain grows faster than any other part of
the body during prenatal development and the first two years of life.

Figure 8.2: Changes in body proportions



1. What is meant by motor development?

2. Why are our heads disproportionately larger than our bodies in
infancy and early childhood?

In the following subtopics, we will discuss some major theories of cognitive

development, moral development and personality development.

8.4.1 Cognitive Development

Cognitive development can be defined as changes in patterns of thinking such as
reasoning, problem-solving and remembering. The most influential and major
theories in this area were proposed by Jean Piaget. Piaget suggested that
childrenÊs thought processes evolve through a series of four major stages. Table
8.2 explains PiagetÊs four stages of cognitive development.

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Table 8.2: PiagetÊs Stages of Cognitive Development

Stage Description Age range

Sensorimotor Infants use their five senses to explore the 0-2 years
Egocentric ă cannot perceive the world from
the viewpoint of others.
Preoperational Acquisition of motor skills. 2-7 years
Children cannot yet think logically.
Concrete operational Can think logically. 7-11 years
Not egocentric anymore ă can have more than
one point of view.
Formal operational Can think abstractly and reason logically. 11-15 years

Source: Davis and Palladino (2000)


1. Define cognitive development.

2. Explain PiagetÊs stages of cognitive development in your own

8.4.2 Moral Development

KohlbergÊs model is the most influential of several other theories that attempt to
explain how we develop a sense of morality. His theory was actually derived
from PiagetÊs earlier work. Piaget suggested that moral development is
determined by cognitive development, meaning that the way we think about
moral issues depends on our level of cognitive development. Kohlberg based his
stage theory of moral development on this assumption as shown in Table 8.3.

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Table 8.3: KohlbergÊs Stages of Moral Development

Level 1: Preconventional Morality

Stage 1: Punishment-avoidance and Obey rules to avoid punishment.
Stage 2: Exchange of favours The course of action that serves oneÊs own
personal interest is usually chosen.
Reciprocity is possible, but only if it serves
oneÊs own interest first.
Level 2: Conventional Morality
Stage 3: Good boy/girl Focus is on living up to social expectations
and roles.
Stage 4: Law and order Focus is on maintaining social order,
following the rules and fulfilling oneÊs duty.
Level 3: Postconventional Morality
Stage 5: Social contract Follows general and accepted rules to ensure
the well being of society.
Stage 6: Universal ethical principle Follows own ethical principles and values
even if they conflict with the law.

Source: Gazzaniga and Heatherton (2003)


Explain KohlbergÊs stages of moral development.

8.4.3 Personality Development

How do we develop our unique personality traits? Several theories have
attempted to answer this question. Sigmund Freud constructed one of the first
major theories of personality development. He claimed that by the age of five, the
basic foundation for our personality has already been firmly laid down. The next
most influential theory of personality development was proposed by Erik
Erikson. Erikson, like Freud, also believed that events in early childhood leave a
permanent mark on our personality as adults. However, Erikson suggested that
personality continues to evolve throughout our entire lifespan.

Table 8.4 shows EriksonÊs theory of personality development which suggests that
people evolve through eight stages during their lifespan. Each stage is marked by a
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psychosocial crisis that has two probable outcomes, either favourable or

unfavourable. For example, during stage 1, if the infantÊs basic needs are sufficiently
met by the parents, the child should develop an optimistic, trusting attitude towards
the world. However, if the infantÊs basic needs are neglected by the parents, the child
may develop a more distrusting and pessimistic personality.

Table 8.4: EriksonÊs Stages of Personality Development


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Explain EriksonÊs theory of personality development in your own words.

Evaluate your personality development by asking yourself the critical
questions at each stage of EriksonÊs theory of personality

Adolescence is a transitional period between childhood and adulthood. Some of
the most obvious physical changes that take place during adolescence are a
sudden growth spurt (rapid increase in height and weight) and puberty (sexual
maturation). Table 8.5 shows the major physical changes that take place during
puberty and the average age it begins for boys and girls.

Table 8.5: Physical and Sexual Development in Adolescent Boys and Girls

Boys Average age Girls Average age

Rapid increase in height 12 ó Rapid increase in height 10 ó
and weight and weight
Growth of the testes 11 ó Development of breasts 11-12
and pubic hair
First ejaculation, 13 ó First menstrual period 12 ó - 13
development of pubic
hair and facial hair
Deepening of the voice 14 - -

Source: Gerrig and Zimbardo (2008)

The age at which one goes through the changes of puberty is different for each
individual. Some develop earlier, others later. Early sexual maturation among
boys has psychological advantages. According to one study, boys who mature
earlier are more likely to excel in sports and gain respect from their peers for
doing so (Conger & Peterson, 1991). On the other hand, boys who mature later
develop a stronger sense of identity in early adulthood, perhaps because they do

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not feel any immediate pressure to „grow up‰. For girls, early maturation may be
a blessing to some and a curse to others. A girl who matures earlier will perhaps
be admired by other girls, but is also more likely to be viewed as a sex object by
boys, which could bring about feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Cognitive changes during adolescence have been described by Piaget to consist

of an increased ability to reason abstractly ă formal operational thought.
Although teenagers are undergoing advances in thinking at this stage, there are
still some rather childish fallacies in thinking which persist such as:
(a) Imaginary Audience
Teenagers tend to feel that they are constantly being observed and judged
by others. Because of this, they are often very self-conscious and concerned
about their personal appearances.
(b) Personal Fable
They have an unrealistic sense of their own uniqueness. For example, a
teenager may feel that nobody can ever understand the pain and suffering
he is going through. In unfortunate cases, this sometimes leads teenagers to
commit suicide. Many teenagers also believe that they are somehow so
different from others that nothing negative can affect them. Hence,
teenagers tend to take more reckless risks.


1. How does early or late sexual maturation affect adolescents?

2. Describe two fallacies of adolescent thinking.

As we progress through adulthood, we constantly ask ourselves questions such
as „How am I doing for my age?‰ These questions are often influenced by our
social clocks. A social clock is a personÊs idea of a developmental schedule which
points out what he or she should have accomplished by a certain age or point in
life. For example, if you believe you should have children by the time you are 31,
that belief creates a mark on your social clock. Important events and life changes
that come too early or too late according to oneÊs social clock tend to cause a lot
of stress.

As far as changes in personality during adulthood go, EriksonÊs stage theory of

personality development divides adulthood into three stages as we have

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learned: intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus self-absorption and

integrity versus despair.

During middle adulthood, some adults may experience midlife crisis. The
individual experiencing midlife crisis feels painfully unfulfilled, and may make
dramatic and radical changes in career, personal relationships or lifestyle. Studies
have indicated, however, that midlife crisis is not typical. Most people do not
make such sudden and dramatic changes in their lives. Instead, most adults go
through midlife transition.

During this stage of midlife transition, people tend to take charge of their lives
again. When we are confronted with the first signs of aging, we suddenly realise
that time is running out. We realise that we may never accomplish all that we
dreamed of doing and begin to question how meaningful our past
accomplishments have been. As a result, some people start to rethink their life
priorities and values, creating new goals based on their new understandings.

Another important change that takes place during this time is the decline in the
function of our reproductive organs. Women will go through a stage called
menopause. The amount of estrogens (female hormone) produced by the ovaries
decreases, and the breasts, genital tissues, and uterus begin to shrink.
Menstruation becomes irregular and completely stops at around the age of 50.
The hormonal changes which take place during menopause may cause certain
symptoms such as mood swings, „hot flashes‰, and thinning of the bones.
However, these symptoms can be avoided by hormone replacement therapy.
Men, on the other hand, experience a much more subtle and mild decline in this
case. In fact, men can be sexually active and reproduce even as they mature into
late adulthood. However, a gradual but mild decline in the production of
testosterone (male hormone) is evident in men between ages 48 and 70.


As we mature into late adulthood, we begin to face many physical changes. Our
hair turns white or grey and starts thinning, our skin wrinkles, and our bones,
muscles and joints slowly degenerate. Our blood circulation slows down while
blood pressure increases and we have less energy than we had before because
our lungs hold less oxygen.

What causes aging? One explanation is that our body simply wears out through
repeated use just like a machine eventually wears out. Toxins that we are
exposed to and chemicals that accumulate as inevitable by-products of the bodyÊs
activities contribute to this wearing-out process.

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Cognitive changes in late adulthood are often characterised by memory loss.

However, the truth is only about 10 per cent of our brain shrinks between the
ages of 20 and 70. This means that many elderly people may remain cognitively
active given that they exercise their brain regularly by engaging in activities such
as crossword puzzles, reading, and so on. Unfortunately, many elderly people
also suffer from AlzheimerÊs disease. This is a terrible disease where one slowly
starts to lose all memory; individuals may fail to recognise their own children
and forget how to do simple tasks such as opening the door. AlzheimerÊs disease
is believed to be caused by a deterioration of the brainÊs structure and function. It
may also result in changes in personality. Mental impairment in the elderly may
also be caused by alcoholism, depression, stroke, vitamin deficiency, and
reactions to certain prescription drugs.

Finally, we begin to face the end of life. How well do most elderly people cope
with the end of life? Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1969) interviewed over 200
people who were facing the end of life to understand the psychological aspects of
dying. Table 8.6 describes the five stages people facing death go through.

Table 8.6: Stages of Dying

Stages Description
Denial The individual refuses to believe that he/she is dying, and seeks other
more acceptable opinions.
Anger The individual accepts the reality of the situation, but is very angry that it
has to happen to them and not to somebody else.
Bargaining The individual desperately tries to buy time by negotiating with doctors,
family members and God.
Depression When bargaining fails and time is running out, the individual may
suddenly become depressed.
Acceptance The individual is tired and weak, and enters a state of „quiet
expectation‰, submitting to fate.

1. Explain in your own words the term „social clock‰.
2. According to Erikson, what is the main concern during middle

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 Developmental psychology is the study of how people change from birth to

old age.

 The major issues in studying human development are: individual

characteristics versus shared human traits, stability versus change and nature
versus nurture.

 The prenatal period refers to the time between conception and birth.

 Prenatal development consists of three stages: germinal, embryonic and


 Cognitive development can be defined as changes in patterns of thinking

such as reasoning, problem-solving and remembering.

 EriksonÊs theory of personality development suggests that people evolve

through eight stages during the span of their life.

 EriksonÊs stage theory of personality development divides adulthood into

three stages: intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus self-absorption
and integrity versus despair.

Embryonic stage Puberty

Foetal stage Reflexes
Germinal stage Social clock
Motor development Temperament
Placenta Zygote
Prenatal period

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)


Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R. J. & Zimbardo, P. G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.
Kohlberg, L. (1969). Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach
to socialization. In D.A. Goslin, Handbook of socialization theory and
research. Chicago: Rand McNally.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology themes & variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

Topic  Motivation
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain the general concepts of motivation;
2. Describe the different sources of motivation;
3. Explain several theories of motivation;
4. Explain various human needs; and
5. Explain human achievement and employee motivation.

The term „motivation‰ is always an interesting topic to many people. Perhaps,
many people think studying about motivation can help them to succeed in life.
As such, we like to read motivational books or sign up for courses to improve
ourselves. Sometimes, we always say that we need motivation to work or to help
us move ahead. Do you really know what motivation is all about? In order to
better understand the meaning of motivation, we will discuss the definition of
motivation, the sources of motivation and theories of motivation. We will also
explore human needs issues such as hunger, sexual drives and losing weight, as
well as the need for achievement and employee motivation.

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Find three definitions of motivation and discuss them with your

course mates in your online forum.

The term motivation is the activation or energisation of goal-oriented behaviour.

Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. ( We
will further discuss the terms intrinsic and extrinsic later.

According to Kalat (2002), motivation comes from the word „motion‰. It literally
refers to something that „moves‰ a person. He suggested that motivation is what
activates and directs behaviour. For instance, why is Ali able to do his homework
quickly on a particular day without being forced to by his mother? He is usually
not keen to do his homework. In this instance, we are interested to know the
reason for the change in behaviour. Did he receive a reward or praise from his
teacher, etc? Is motivation a motion or something that „moves‰ a person?

To further illustrate the meaning of motivation, Kalat says that, „Motivation is

what makes our behaviour more vigorous and energetic.‰ He further adds,
„Motivation is what changes one's preferences or choices.‰ As such, it is difficult
to state precisely the meaning of motivation. The most important principle is
what makes a particular individual move and act towards his goals.

According to Austin and Vancouver, (1996) cited from Kalat (2002), there are
several characteristics of motivated behaviour, one of which is that it is goal
directed. Motivated individuals continue working until they reach their goals,
and, if necessary, set up sub goals to achieve their final goals. Our motivation
becomes stronger when we have a clear mission and vision.

Other characteristics of motivated behaviour may vary from time to time and
differ from person to person. For example, someone could be highly motivated
today but not tomorrow. How people are motivated or not is very much
influenced by both internal (biological) and external (social) factors. If they
persist until they reach a goal, then such behaviour is motivated, not reflexive.
Therefore, motivation is to inspire, instigate and encourage a person to do their
best (Susan Velez).

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Motivation can be applied to every aspect of life such as in sports, education,

work place and business organisation. It is the most important key to determine
success. When someone lacks motivation, he or she may not get good results.
However, if there is a motivated behaviour, then they will attain greater and
better results or achievements. A motivated person tends to be happy, more
energetic, and shows positive results. Do you agree?


What has motivated you to read this topic? Is it because of your interest or
because your tutor asked you to read it? Perhaps, it is a combination of both. This
implies that our action to do something is always determined by internal and
external factors.

In our daily life, sources of human motivation can be divided into two categories:
(a) Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation comes from the inner-self. It is related to human instincts
and drives. This physiological need originates from inside our bodies and
motivates us to behave in certain ways. According to Kalat (2002), intrinsic
motivation is a motivation to do an act for its own sake. For example, I did
well in my examination because of my commitment and self-confidence.
(b) Extrinsic Motivation
On the other hand, human behaviour could be influenced by external
factors. Kalat (2002) explained that extrinsic motivation is based on the
reinforcements and punishments that the act may bring. For example,
someone may work harder to enjoy the reward given and will try his best
to avoid punishment.

The above discussion shows the two different sources of motivation. While
intrinsic motivation always comes from our internal state, extrinsic motivation
motivates us in ways that may be unrelated to our internal state. For instance, I
do something because I enjoy it or feel proud (intrinsic) or because of the good
pay (extrinsic). These two sources of motivation help us to understand why
someone behaves differently from what is observed every day.


Give five examples of intrinsic motivation and five examples of

extrinsic motivation. Discuss them in your tutorial class.

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There are six main theories of motivation, as shown in Figure 9.1.

Figure 9.1: Theories of motivation

These theories may explain how we motivate ourselves to find ways to fulfil our
needs. Let us learn each theory in detail.

(a) Instinct Theory

It is an earlier view on human motivation. William James suggested that
instincts are impulses from within a person that direct or motivate that
person's behaviour. He said that motives are, in fact, genetically-
determined instincts that have evolved in humans because they support
survival and procreation. Kalat (2002) views Instinct Theory as a
motivation, a kind of energy that builds up until it finds a release.

(b) Drive Reduction Theory

According to the drive reduction theory, our internal state will not feel
comfortable when our need is not fulfilled. For example, when we feel
hungry, we will look for food to reduce the hunger. Therefore, there is a
drive to motivate us to do something such as buy food to minimise the
uncomfortable situation. The desire to reduce an uncomfortable, internal
state, called a drive, results when our needs are not fulfilled (Hull, 1943),

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cited from Pastorino & Doyle-portillo (2009). We can thus conclude that
drives can help us survive by creating what psychologists call a drive state
to ensure we are motivated to meet our biological needs.

(c) Arousal Theory

According to this theory, each of us has a level of physiological arousal at
which we operate best and can be aroused to the optimal level. For example,
a badminton player performs well because of the arousing support in the
stadium. Therefore, if you really want to be successful then you should seek
your arousal such as accepting a challenge from others, etc.

Sometimes, people like to seek high levels of physiological arousal by

engaging in intensely stimulating experiences such as mountain climbing.
Psychologists call this kind of people as sensation seekers (Zuckerman,
1978, 1994) cited from Pastorino & Doyle-portillo (2009).

(d) Incentive Theory

Do you agree that not all our behaviour is driven by physiological and
biological needs? Perhaps, it could be motivated by certain incentives such
as specific goals or desires that you wish to satisfy or achieve. In fact,
money, praise, and other material gains can serve as incentives for
motivating us to act. Psychologists call this type of motivated behaviour
extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Kalat (2002) defined incentive in
motivation as an external stimulus that attracts us even if we have no
biological need for them.

(e) Cognitive Theory

It is a learning theory of psychology that tries to explain human behaviour
by understanding the thought processes. The assumption is that humans
are logical beings who make choices that make the most sense to them.
„Information processing‰ is a commonly used description of the mental
process, comparing the human mind to a computer.

(f) MaslowÊs Hierarchy of Needs

It is most often displayed as a pyramid. The lowest levels of the pyramid
are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are
located at the top of the pyramid. It was introduced by a psychologist
named Abraham Maslow. We will learn more about this in sub-topic 9.7.

All these theories show that there are many ways to look at motivation and they
can help us better understand how human behaviour is motivated. It is always
either intrinsic or extrinsic. However, none of these theories seems to fully
explain all aspects of human motivation. Instead, we recognise that each of these
theories has its strengths and weaknesses. For example, a combination of
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different theories can explain how human motivation takes place. Nevertheless,
motivation drives our behaviour and moves us into action.


In your online forum, discuss how the theories of motivation are

different from one another.


Human needs are complex. Some may struggle to fulfil basic needs such as food
and drink while many search for psychological needs such as love and moral
support. Of course, there is another group of people who look for self-
actualisation to make their life complete. We can classify these needs into two

(a) Primary Needs

Whenever you feel hungry, this uncomfortable state may drive you to look
for food. In the primary stage need, we will be motivated to meet our
physiological or biological needs. Such needs will motivate us to do
something with the aim to maintain certain bodily processes at an internal
state of equilibrium, or homeostasis. It would be desirable for us to take in
just the right amount of food to reduce that situation of discomfort.

Primary drives begin in the body when the brain recognises that we lack
some biological need. The brain recognises needs based on the feedback that
it receives from the body's systems and organs. One type of feedback system
is the negative feedback loop. Negative feedback loops are information
systems in the body that monitor the level of a bodily process and adjust it
up and down accordingly. A good analogy for a negative feedback loop is a
thermostat. In your home, you set the thermostat at a desired level, and the
thermostat monitors the air temperature and compares it to that set level. If
the room gets too cold, the heater is turned on. If the room gets too warm, the
heater is turned off. Many primary drives in the body work in the same
fashion (Pastorino & Doyle-portillo, 2009).

(b) Secondary Needs

Those needs which are not physiological can be classified as a secondary
need. Secondary needs will motivate us to perform or do something that is
not directly related to our biological needs. For example, we are always
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looking for a better lifestyle and social status. According to Pastorino &
Doyle-portillo (2009), secondary drives are presumed to have developed
through learning and experiences. Therefore, many people try their best in
their jobs because they are motivated by extrinsic rewards such as a higher
salary or promotion. This means that secondary needs come from external

9.4.1 Hunger Motivation

Eating is one of the most basic activities for all living things. It is also
fundamental to survival and protects us from starvation. Do you know when you
feel hungry? What circumstances will motivate people to look for food?
According to Pastorino & Doyle-portillo (2009), hunger motivation occurs:

„When our stomachs become empty, the walls of the stomach contract and these
contractions appear to stimulate hunger. Additionally, the stomach appears to
release a hormone called ghrelin that sends strong hunger signals to the brain
(Wu & Krai, 2004). Just as the stomach signals hunger, it may also play a role in
telling our brain when it is time to stop eating. When we eat, our stomach's walls
must distend to expand the volume of the stomach and allow room for the food
we eat. When we have eaten enough and our stomachs are full, this distention of
the stomach is one source of feedback that signals to our brains that it is time to
stop eating (J. A. Deutsch, 1990).‰

Based on Kalat (2002), our hunger works on a negative feedback loop system like
a thermostat because our brain turns our hunger on and off in order to maintain
homeostasis in our bodies. Everyone has to work hard to obtain enough food for
survival. Sometimes people have to fight with each other due to shortage of food.
This is what we call hunger motivation.

According to Bartoli, there are four theories of hunger motivation. Read further
to find out how hunger motivation occurs:
(a) Hypothalamic Theory
Two structures within the hypothalamus relate to the initiation and
cessation of eating:
(i) The lateral hypothalamus (starts eating); and
(ii) The ventromedial hypothalamus (stops eating).

Large lesions to the LH produce APHAGIA (failure to eat) and ADIPSIA

(failure to drink) - the LH is thought to be the hunger centre.

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Large lesions to the VH produce HYPERPHAGIA (gross over-eating) and

obesity - the satiety centre. Research on rats shows they will not eat just
anything, they will only eat things that taste good. They are extremely
sensitive to taste, smell, and texture.
(b) Externality Hypothesis
Research by Schacter et, al. on obese humans shows that the difference
between obese and normal weight people is that the obese are overly
responsive to external stimuli (cues for eating) and relatively unresponsive
to internal cues.
(c) Set Point Theory
Set point is the weight that your body wants to be. It is a self-regulatory
system that maintains your body weight. If you starve yourself, the
hypothalamus activates compensatory mechanisms; your metabolism slows
so that energy stores are used more sparingly and the amount of insulin
that is produced increases so that more of the food that you take in remains
as fat (this makes it possible to maintain weight on a meagre diet).

To conclude, hunger is a partly homeostatic drive that keeps fuel available for the
body. There is a certain mechanism in our brain to monitor how much fuel is
available when supplies begin to drop. Then, the brain triggers behaviour that
leads us to eat. While eating, how does our brain know how much fuel is
available and how much more we should eat? Therefore, the homeostatic system
plays a crucial role in alerting us to eat or not to eat.

On the other hand, how do people choose their food? We always hear people
saying they like this food or dislike that food. They will probably tell you that
most of their choices are largely based on learning what to eat and what not to
eat. Sometimes, we are told by our parents or friends what is good to eat. Then,
we will try the food ourselves and decide if we like or dislike it.

As with other motivations, food selection depends on a combination of

physiological, social, and cognitive factors. For example, we eat at home for
survival or we may deliberately go to a five-star hotel for dinner because of the
social status motive. However, we all do not choose the same food because people
from different parts of the world have different taste preferences. Do you agree?

Explain how hunger motivation takes place. Discuss your answer in
your tutorial class.

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Now we will proceed to another interesting topic especially for ladies, that is,
losing weight. Whenever you talk to someone about weight loss, they will tell
you that it is an almost impossible task to lose weight. However, there are stories
of people who have succeeded although we tend to see or know more about the
failures than the successes. This is because „Most of the people who lose weight
and keep it off don't keep talking about it and don't keep seeking help.‰
(Schachter, 1982) cited from Kalat (2002). Most of the people who show up at one
weight-loss clinic after another repeatedly fail to lose weight and so the „losing‰
patients seem disproportionately more.

Are you satisfied with your own weight? In the United States, almost everyone
says „no.‰ Women, in particular, are usually dissatisfied with their own
appearance. The percentage of women expressing dissatisfaction has increased
gradually over the decades. Research has shown that on the average women
report lower self-esteem than men. This same opinion applies to weight and
body appearance. Unattractive men are unlikely to say they are satisfied with
their appearance and even attractive women say they are dissatisfied with their
appearance (Feingold & Mazzella, 1998) cited from Kalat (2002).

How then do they cope and what should they do? The following are some of the
effective measures that they can consider:
(a) Seek professional help and advice.
(b) Most therapists recommend starting with the simplest methods such as
exercise. If those methods fail, then they can consider trying more intensive
methods (Friedman & Brownell, 1996),
(c) Increase exercise as part of the lose weight strategy.
(d) Set realistic exercise goals.
(e) Reduce overeating habits.
(f) Seek counselling to overcome their psychological problems in addition to
their weight problem.
(g) Seek medical help and get treatment.

Share your experience with your classmates on how you take care of
your weight in your daily life.

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Sex is a physiological need for human beings. However, many people shy away
from discussing this subject. They believe that it is a private or personal matter.
Psychologists view sexual relationships as an important aspect of life that can
bind us together in a very powerful way and enhance our intimate relationships.
Sexual need is a physiological need like food and drink. However, the sex drive
is different from hunger needs. This is because spouses or partners need sexual
arousal while hunger is very much dependent on homeostatics.

Nowadays, many companies or agencies conduct surveys on human sexuality

issues. Here is some advice for you. If the „researchers‰ want to ask you about
your sexual life and fail to show you their credentials or seem unconcerned about
your confidentiality, do not entertain them. Also be cautious about sex surveys
over the telephone as they could be scams.

In general, sexual motivation depends on both physiological and cognitive

influences. It is not just the „plumbing‰ of the body but also the presence of a
suitable partner. Of course, it also involves a willingness to be aroused and a lack
of anxiety too. Masters & Johnson (1966), who pioneered the study on human
sexual response, discovered that physiological arousal during the sex act is
similar in men and women. They observed hundreds of people masturbating or
having sexual intercourse in a laboratory and monitored their physiological
responses, including heart rate, breathing, muscle tension, blood engorgement of
the genitals and breasts and nipple erection.

Do you agree that sexual behaviour is complex? Whether people are happy or
dissatisfied with their sex life depends on various factors such as the spousal
relationship, stress, health, sexual desire, lifestyle, etc. It is also influenced by the
levels of sexual hormones for example, testosterone in males; and estrogens in
females as produced by the gonads. Sexual hormone production in the gonads is,
in turn, controlled by hormones produced in the pituitary gland.

Masters & Johnson (1966) identified four physiological stages in sexual arousal.
They are:
(a) Excitement: initial arousal of genital areas.
(b) Plateau: continued excitement, increasing rates of breathing and pulse, and
increasing blood pressure.

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(c) Orgasm: rapid contraction of muscles in genital area, release of semen by

male, feeling of pleasure by both genders.
(d) Resolution: return of body to a non-aroused state.

However, in real life sexual situations, many people are unable to complete the
four stages of arousal. This is called sexual dysfunction or disorder. Some men
cannot produce or maintain an erection. This is because they have premature
ejaculations-- advancing from excitement to orgasm sooner than they or their
partners wish. It is believed that there are many men and women who stay at the
plateau stage without experiencing orgasm. Some sexual disorders can be traced
to physiological causes but they are usually unknown. Hence, medical advice
should be sought.


What are the four physiological stages in sexual arousal?


All psychology students should know MaslowÊs hierarchy of needs theory.
According to Maslow (1970), human behaviour is governed by a hierarchy of
needs. Human needs begin from basic needs to higher level needs.

According to him, the most basic human needs are the physiological ones, such
as food, drink, sleep, and oxygen. Maslow explained that these basic needs
ordinarily take priority over all other needs. For example, people who are
hungry must look for food and will definitely not take time out to do something
else until they have satisfied their hunger need. Once people have satisfied all
their physiological needs will they seek to satisfy their next stage of need, which
is the need for safety, such as security from attack, and avoidance of pain. When
those needs are satisfied, they will proceed to the need for love and belonging
such as making friends and socialising with the community. Then, they may
come to the need for self-esteem, such as gaining prestige and a feeling of
accomplishment. At the apex of Maslow's hierarchy of needs is the need for self-
actualisation. This indicates that a particular individual has achieved his full
human potential.

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These human needs are presented as a pyramid, as shown in Figure 9.2.

There are five elements in MaslowÊs hierarchy of needs theory, which are:
(a) Physiological needs;
(b) Safety needs;
(c) Belongingness needs;
(d) Self-esteem needs; and
(e) Self-actualisation needs.

Figure 9.2: Maslow's hierarchy of needs


To summarise MaslowÊs hierarchy of needs, human needs start from the basic to
higher needs. For example, if you are thirsty, you will want to drink something
to satisfy that basic need. If you fulfil all your basic needs, you will move on to
your psychological needs and then to your self-fulfilment needs. However, some
people do sacrifice their comfort, security, and even health to strive for artistic,
athletic, or other accomplishments. Therefore, you may criticise as well as reject
Maslow's view on human hierarchical needs. What is your view?
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Discuss how MaslowÊs Theory can be applied in your workplace.


MaslowÊs original theory has been revised and developed by Clayton Alderfer
who reworked MaslowÊs needs hierarchy to align it with empirical research. As a
result, his revised need hierarchy is named as the ERG theory.

ERG refers to three categories of need: existence (E), relatedness (R) and growth
(G). Alderfer further argues that human needs can be classified into three groups
of needs as shown in Figure 9.3:

Figure 9.3: ERG Theory


How can ERG be applied in your life? Discuss with your coursemates.

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Do you agree that everyone likes to be successful and, if possible, to achieve
more in life? Sometimes, we like to compete with others for better results or
perhaps, we want to compete against ourselves for something even better than
before. For example, look at marketing people; they will set their target and once
they have hit it, will be highly motivated to achieve better results.

What do psychologists say about human achievement? According to Kalat

(2002), the need for achievement is the striving for accomplishment and
excellence; driven by two types of motivation:
(a) Extrinsic Motivation
This achievement is normally aroused by the rewards to be received or
expected to be given. For example, Ah Ling will expect something valuable
from her parents if she scores better results in her final examination.
(b) Intrinsic Motivation
This type of motivation refers to those who take pleasure in accomplishing
their goals for their own sake. They persist at a task for a long time and
develop great skills at it.

It is common that many people like easy tasks but some prefer to have a
challenging job instead. All this depends on their level of fear of failure or
whether they are looking forward to more challenging tasks before success.
People who are afraid to fail are reluctant to try. However, those who have a
strong achievement need will try harder and harder or just take the risk.

David Clarence McClelland (1917-1998), a psychologist from America, and his

colleagues spent 20 years studying motivation and the human need for
achievement. He is known for his work on achievement motivation. Of course,
his theory is known as McClellandÊs theory of needs. In fact, his idea is widely
recognised in many organisations, and relate closely to the theory of Frederick

Let us examine McClellandÊs theory which classifies human needs into three types:
(a) Need for Achievement
This need refers to the drive to excel; to achieve in relation to a set of
standards; and to strive for success. McClelland found that high achievers
differentiated themselves from others because they have a strong desire to
do things better.

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(b) Need for Power

It refers to a need for power or authority and control over others. This need
also indicates that people will strive for influence over others as well as
prefer to be placed into competitive and status positions. They tend to be
more concerned with prestige and gaining influence over others too.
(c) Need for Affiliation
This need can be described as the desire for friendly and close interpersonal
relationships. This type of people prefers cooperative situations rather than
competitive ones and which involve a high degree of mutual

In conclusion, according to McClelland's achievement theory, achievement-

motivated people have certain characteristics in common. They are:
(a) The capacity to set high („stretching‰) personal but obtainable goals;
(b) The concern for personal achievement rather than the rewards of success; and
(c) The desire for job-relevant feedback (how well am I doing?) rather than
attitudinal feedback (how well do you like me?).

Sources from:


1. Discuss with your coursemates how McClelland's theory can be

applied to motivate your children or friends.
2. Identify five important factors which can drive your achievements
in your career path. Share your findings with your coursemates.


It is a challenging task for all human resource managers to keep their employees
in peak performance. They are also required to find ways to help all employees
work at full potential so that the ultimate goal of employee motivation can be
achieved. There are many ways to help keep employees motivated. Some may
consider placing employees in a competitive situation among themselves. In fact,
healthy competition is a great way to generate motivation among employees.
This may give employees a chance to show off their abilities to their peers in a
competitive environment. It will not only motivate employees with greater

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production, but the competition will give the employer an idea of who the most
productive ones are.

In your opinion, what can employers do to motivate their employees,
and what are the factors responsible for employee dissatisfaction?
Discuss your answer in the online forum.

9.10.1 Two-factor Theory

When we discuss employee motivation, we should look at the Two-factor
Theory, a popular theory related to employee motivation. Frederick Herzberg
(1923-2000), a clinical psychologist and pioneer of „job enrichment‰, is regarded
as one of the great original thinkers in management and employee motivational
theory. He was born in Massachusetts in 1923. His book, „The Motivation to
Work‰, was written with research colleagues Bernard Mausner and Barbara
Snyderman in 1959. He is the first one to establish theories about motivation in
the workplace. Then he expanded his motivation-hygiene theory in his
subsequent books: Work and the Nature of Man (1966); The Managerial Choice
(1982); and Herzberg on Motivation (1983).

Herzberg sometimes called his theory the „Motivator-Hygiene Theory‰. We must

recognise that motivator and hygiene are the two factors that determine
employee motivation; which can be seen as follows:
(a) Motivators
Include challenging work, recognition, responsibility (which brings more
job satisfaction); and
(b) Hygiene Factors
Such as status, job security, salary and other benefits that do not motivate if
present but may result in job dissatisfaction if they are absent.

9.10.2 Theory X and Y

There are another two views regarding employee motivation known as Theory X
and Theory Y. McGregor (1960) stated that managers have an important role in
motivating their employees. He proposed two theories to describe employee

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(a) Theory X
Based on this theory, employees under this category are lazy and like to get
away with doing as little as they can. Thus, the manager needs to control
and monitor them.
(b) Theory Y
Type Y employees really want to do their best in their work. Theory Y
believes that people will work hard and perform well when empowered to
make appropriate decisions. Therefore, they need less supervision.

Whenever we talk about employee motivation, we cannot deny that almost all
workers are primarily motivated by the need for money. So, if management
wants its workforce to perform better, then it has to pay more. It is a very
powerful way of motivating the employees, donÊt you agree?

9.10.3 Theory Z
There is yet another perspective on employee motivation. Theory Z was
developed by William Ouchi' in the 1980s and is also known as the „Japanese
Management‰ culture. This theory became popular during the Asian economic
boom. Theory Z focused on increasing employee loyalty to the company by
providing a job for life with a strong focus on the well-being of the employee,
both on and off the job. For Ouchi, Theory Z management promotes stable
employment, high productivity, and high employee morale and satisfaction.
Theory Z tends to promote partnerships and group work. Promoting Theory Z
and the Japanese word „Wa‰ helped to contribute to the success of the Japanese

Ouchi also wrote a book called Theory Z - How American Business Can Meet the
Japanese Challenge (1981). In this book, he explained how American companies
can meet the Japanese challenge with a highly effective management style that
promises to transform business in the 1980s. The secret to Japanese success,
according to Ouchi, is not technology but a special way of managing people.
„This is a managing style that focuses on a strong company philosophy, a distinct
corporate culture, long-range staff development, and consensus decision-
making.‰ (Ouchi, 1981).


Can you describe the differences between Theory X, Y and Z?

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9.10.4 Goal Setting Theory

It is not an easy job for managers to increase employee motivation because employees
respond differently to their jobs and organisations. To explain this motivational
behaviour, the Goal Setting Theory defines motivation action as a goal-directed
behaviour. Indeed, it is a concept used to describe the factors in an individual which
arouse, maintain and channel someoneÊs behaviour towards a goal.

What is important in the Goal Setting Theory is that the goals must be realistic
and specific as well as difficult. If possible, feedback should be obtained on the
action and not the person. Finally, the Goal Setting Theory is very result oriented.
It is applicable to the marketing department or sales persons.

9.10.5 Equity Theory

Adam (1963) proposed the Equity Theory to explain employee motivation. The
theory extends beyond the individual self to incorporate the influence played by
others in different situations while making comparisons of these situations. For
instance, Ali and Mutu are colleagues. They like to compare their inputs and
outputs. As a result, this may lead them to have an awareness of equity. Equity is
commonly seen as a kind of fair system.

However, the Equity Theory is a more complex and sophisticated motivational

model than merely assessing effort (inputs) and reward (outputs). The actual
sense of equity or fairness (or inequity or unfairness) in the Equity Theory is
arrived at only after including a comparison between our own input and output
ratio, and the input and output ratios of others in similar situations.

In other words, people want to feel that there is a fair balance between inputs and
outputs. In fact, fairness is measured by comparing one's own balance or ratio and
inputs and outputs, with the ratio enjoyed or endured by relevant („referent‰)
others. The Equity Theory reminds us that people see themselves in the way they are
treated in terms of their surrounding environment, team, system, etc.

9.10.6 Expectancy Theory

The Expectancy Theory of motivation has become a commonly accepted theory
for managers to explain how individuals make decisions regarding various
behavioural alternatives. This theory, proposed by Victor Vroom in 1964,
predicts that employees in an organisation will be motivated when they believe

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(a) Putting in more effort will result in better job performance;

(b) Better job performance will enable them to have more rewards such as an
increase in bonus; and
(c) The predicted rewards are valued.

Vroom introduced three variables in the Expectancy Theory which are: valence
(V), expectancy (E) and instrumentality (I). As cited in http://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Expectancy_theory, these three elements are defined as follows:
(a) Effort refers to performance expectancy (E>P expectancy).
(b) Performance refers to outcome expectancy (P>O expectancy).
(c) Our assessment of the probability of our efforts will lead to the required
performance level (E>P expectancy). Then, our assessment of the
probability of our successful performance will lead to certain outcomes
(P>O expectancy).


Based on two motivational theories that you are familiar with, share
how they can be applied in your work place.

 Motivation can be defined as the activation or energisation of goal-oriented


 The sources of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic.

 There are various theories of motivation - instinct theory, drive reduction

theory, arousal theory, incentive theory, cognitive theory and biopsychosocial

 There are two types of human needs - primary and secondary needs.

 Human needs also include hunger motivation, losing weight, sexual

motivation, MaslowÊs hierarchy needs, ERG needs and need for achievement.

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 These are the theories related to employee motivation - two-factor theory,

theory X, Y and Z, goal setting theory, equity theory and theory of

Bartoli, A. M. (n.d.) Motivation. Retrieved November 30, 2010, from:
Fritscher, L. (2009). Cognitive theory. Retrieved December 2, 2010, from:
Kalat, J. W. (2002). Introduction to psychology (6th ed.). Belmont, California:
McClelland, D. (2010). Human relations contributors. Retrieved December 2,
2010, from:
Pastorino, E., & Doyle-portillo, S. (2009). What is psychology. Wadworth
Sasson, R. (2010). What is motivation and how to strengthen it. Retrieved
December 2, 2010, from:
Velez, S. (n.d.). expert author. Retrieved December 2, 2010.
Wikipedia. (2010). Motivation. Retrieved December 2, 2010, from:

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Topic  Social
10 Psychology
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Differentiate between conformity and obedience;
2. Define attitude and attribution;
3. Compare prejudice with discrimination;
4. Describe aggression theories; and
5. Compare prosocial behaviour with altruism.

Essentially, social psychologyÊs emphasis is mainly on understanding the causes
of social behaviour ă on identifying the factors that shape our feelings, thoughts
and behaviour in social situations (Baron & Byrne, 2000). For example, some of
the questions that will be answered in this topic are: Why do human beings act so
aggressively and violently towards each other? Why are we attracted to certain
people and not others? What motivates us to help others? These questions and
mores form the core of social psychology. As we discuss the various topics
within social psychology, you will become aware of the deep, yet hidden
influence that socialisation has on our social behaviour.

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The society and culture in which we grow up in has a deep influence on our
behaviour. Society and culture teaches us to believe in certain things, feel in
certain ways and to act accordingly. However, the majority of us are largely
unaware of the strong influence of society and culture in our lives, especially in
the way we behave. In this section, we will discuss two kinds of social influences:
conformity and obedience.

10.1.1 Conformity
Imagine that you have volunteered to participate in a psychology experiment on
perception. You find yourself in a room with six other participants. First, all of
you are shown a card containing three lines labelled A, B and C, and are asked to
choose the line that is the closest in length to line X (please refer to Figure 10.1).

Figure 10.1: AschÊs study of conformity


You are then asked one by one to say your answers out loud. At first everyone
agrees on the correct answer. However, on the third trial (third card), the first
participant responds with an obviously incorrect answer. You know that line A is
correct, but she says line B. When the second, third, fourth and fifth participants
also say line B, you really start to wonder whether you are wrong and maybe
they are right. What do you think you would do at this point in the experiment?
Would you stick to your initial answer, line A, or would you go along with the
group, conform, and say line B as well?

In the original version of this experiment conducted by Solomon Asch (1951), six
participants were actually actors or helpers of the experimenter who were asked
to answer incorrectly on the third trial. The actual purpose of the experiment was
to investigate the degree of conformity, or changing oneÊs behaviour as a result of
real or imagined group pressure.

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More than one-third of AschÊs participants conformed and agreed with the
groupÊs obviously wrong answer. Why would so many people conform? To the
spectator, conformity is often difficult to understand, and even the person who
conforms has a tough time explaining his/her behaviour. It is possible to
understand conformity better by exploring three factors:
(a) Normative Social Influence
Have you ever asked a friend what he/she is wearing to a party or watched
what other people are doing at the party so that you too can follow? Such
behaviour reflects your desire to conform and the power of normative
social influence. Norms are societyÊs definition of how we should behave.
Normative social influence refers to conformity to group pressure out of a
need for approval and acceptance by the group.
(b) Informational Social Influence
Have you ever purchased anything simply because of a friendÊs
recommendation? In this case, you conformed not to gain their approval,
but rather because you assume that they have more information than you.
Informational social influence refers to conformity to group pressure out of
a need for direction and information. Many governments realise the
importance of information in social influence and generally maintain strict
control over the information that is available to the masses.
(c) Reference Groups
We have a tendency to conform to people we admire and like. This is why
millions of dollars are paid to celebrities to endorse certain products
because advertisers realise the power of reference groups (Davis &
Palladino, 2000).


What is the difference between normative and informational social


Give your own example of normative social influence.

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10.1.2 Obedience
Obedience can be defined as a type of social influence in which an individual
follows direct commands, usually from someone in a position of authority.
Imagine you have volunteered to participate in a psychology experiment on the
effects of punishment on learning. You are randomly assigned to either the role
of teacher or learner.

Your role is teacher. As a teacher, you are instructed by the experimenter to give
electric shocks to the learner when the wrong answer is given. The electric shocks
start with 15 volts and go up to 450 volts which is extremely painful, but causes
no permanent damage to the recipient. Do you think you would follow the
experimenterÊs instructions and give electric shocks right up to 450 volts?

In the original version of this experiment conducted by Stanley Milgram (1963),

26 out of 40 people obeyed Milgram and gave shocks to the learners right up to
450 volts. Of course, the shocks were fake and the learners were all actors.
However, this goes to show that because we have been socialised to obey
authority figures, we are willing to go so far as to harm a complete stranger. This
is the power of social influence.

Do you know what factors influence obedience? Researchers have found that
there are a few factors that lead people to absolute obedience:
(a) Holding the authority figures responsible instead of themselves;
(b) Accepting that the behaviour they are engaged in is routine;
(c) Avoiding being rude to or offending authority figures; and
(d) The tendency to obey simple commands first and then feeling obliged to
follow more difficult commands later ă a process called entrapment or foot-
in-the-door phenomenon.

1. Describe the inner conflict experienced by the participants in
MilgramÊs experiment.
2. What is the difference between conformity and obedience?

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In a group, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of social


Social cognition refers to the way in which we interpret, analyse, remember, and
use information about the social world. More often than not, our interpretations
of the social world are less than accurate, and our ability to think clearly about
other people in order to make accurate decisions or judgments about them are far
from perfect. In this section, we will discuss attitudes and attribution.

10.2.1 Attitudes
An attitude can be defined as a learnt predisposition to respond cognitively,
affectively and behaviourally to a particular object. The object can be anything
from a book to people, death and politics. We are not born with attitudes, rather
they are learned. Essentially, we form our attitudes through direct experience
(e.g. reading a book) and through indirect observation (e.g. listening to our
parents talk about politics).

Attitudes have three major components ă cognitive, affective and behavioural.

The cognitive component consists of thoughts and beliefs, such as „Death is not
the end of life‰. The affective (emotional) component involves feelings, such as
fear of what comes after death. The behavioural component consists of
predispositions to act in a certain way towards the object (Baron & Byrne, 2000).

We have a strong need to feel that our attitudes are in sync with each other, and our
attitudes and behaviour are consistent. When this harmony is disturbed, we feel
troubled and are provoked to change either our attitude, beliefs or behaviour in
order to restore the harmony. This concept is known as cognitive dissonance theory.

Imagine you have a desire to go to France for a holiday, but you come to realise
that you cannot afford it, so you tell yourself that French people are arrogant and
it is not worth the money anyway to go to a country full of snobbish people. This
example follows a pattern: you desire something, find it unattainable, then
reduce your dissonance by changing your attitude towards it.

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1. Define attitude.
2. Explain cognitive dissonance theory in your own words.

10.2.2 Attribution
As we try to understand the world around us, we often look for explanations for
peopleÊs behaviour. What are the reasons for the high level of obedience in
MilgramÊs experiment? When we offer an explanation for behaviour, we attribute
it to something. There are a few criteria for attribution.

Essentially, we attribute behaviour either to internal or external causes. Did the

person act that way because of personal characteristics, motives or intentions, or
from some situational demands or environmental pressures? We can answer the
internal-external question by applying three criteria:
(a) Consistency
Does the person respond to the same stimulus in a similar manner in other
(b) Consensus
How do other people respond to the same stimulus?
(c) Distinctiveness
How does the person respond to different stimuli? Is the personÊs
behaviour odd or distinctive?

When consistency, consensus and distinctiveness are all high, we tend to make
external attributions. Whereas, when consensus and distinctiveness are low,
while consistency is high, we tend to make internal attributions. However, how
do we make such attributions when we lack time and information? Most of the
time, we rely on mental shortcuts.

One common mental shortcut that is used is called the fundamental attribution
error. Essentially, people are more likely to attribute behaviour internally rather
than externally. This is simply because human factors are more noticeable
(salient) than situational factors. Saliency bias helps to explain why people often
blame homeless people for their position. The danger with adopting a saliency
bias is the tendency to „blame the victim‰. Very often, when people are
victimised by poverty, robbery or rape, they are questioned about why they got

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themselves into such a situation. We „blame the victim‰ for his/her misfortune
as it helps us maintain our belief of a just world, where bad things only happen
to bad people (Baron & Byrne, 2000).

On the other hand, when we explain our own behaviour, we choose internal
attributions for our successes and external attributions for our failures. This is
known as self-serving bias.


1. Explain attribution in your own words.

2. When deciding whether behaviour is due to internal or external
causes, what three criteria are applied?
3. What is the fundamental attribution error?
4. Why are people likely to „blame the victim‰?

Prejudice can be defined as a negative attitude, emotional response towards a
particular group and its individual members. Prejudice, like other attitudes,
influences our processing of social information (Huffman, Vernoy & Vernoy,
1997). There are examples of prejudice all around us. Why do we sometimes see
advertisements for a room to rent only available to a certain race? This is
obviously prejudice on the part of the advertiser, in not giving another person
the chance simply because of race.

10.3.1 Prejudice as a Special Type of Attitude

Attitudes often function as schemas. Schemas are cognitive frameworks for
organising, interpreting and recalling information. This attitude can induce
negative feelings or emotions in someone just by being in the presence of or
simply thinking about a group he or she is prejudiced against.

10.3.2 Why does Prejudice Persist?

People who hold prejudiced views do so because it allows them to boost their own
self-image. When they put down other people, it allows them to feel superior.
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Holding prejudiced views saves us considerable cognitive (mental) effort. Once

attitudes or schemas are formed, we do not have to bother about engaging in
careful, systematic processing since we already „know‰ what members of a given
group are like through our preconceived beliefs, prejudices and stereotypes.

You should not confuse prejudice with discrimination. Discrimination is defined

as treating members of a particular group unfairly or differently because of their
membership in that group. Hence, prejudice refers to a negative attitude directed
towards a particular group, whereas, discrimination refers to the behaviour
directed against the group. An example of discrimination would be choosing not
to rent a room to somebody because they belong to a particular race.

Sources of prejudice and discrimination are as shown in Table 10.1:

Table 10.1: Sources of Prejudice and Discrimination

Sources Description
Socialisation Prejudices are often passed down from parents to their
children. The media may also portray some groups in a
brighter light than others, which brings about prejudices.
For example, the media may only portray fair-skinned
people in their advertisements, leading people to believe
that dark skin is undesirable, thus leading to a prejudice
against dark-skinned people.
Conforming behaviours Sometimes we are pressured into forming prejudices or
being discriminative fearing that we may lose the support of
important people in our lives if we act otherwise. For
example, we may be prejudiced and discriminative against
Jews because we face pressure by members of our group,
and fear possible social rejection if we are to act otherwise.
Direct intergroup conflict Researchers have found that prejudice and discrimination
(competition as a source increase when groups are in direct competition with each
of prejudice) other for economic benefits, or other valued commodities
and opportunities. For example, in the history of Malaysia,
our biggest racial conflict happened on May 13, 1969 due to
a sharp division of wealth between the Chinese, who were
perceived to control a large portion of the Malaysian
economy, and the Malays, who were perceived to be poorer.
Social categorisation People have strong tendencies to divide the world into two
(us-versus-them effect) categories ă us and them; and perceive their group to be
superior to other competing groups. Each group sees itself
as different and better than its rivals, and prejudice and
discrimination arise out of this clash of social perceptions.

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1. What are the reasons for prejudice?

2. Describe prejudice as an attitude.
3. What is the difference between prejudice and discrimination?

Think about the sources of prejudice and discrimination in our country
and list them down to see if they fit into any of the categories of sources
of prejudice and discrimination mentioned above.


Take a minute to think about somebody you like a lot. Now think of somebody
you really do not like. Can you explain how you feel? Interpersonal attraction
refers to one personÊs evaluation of someone else along a dimension that ranges
from strong liking to strong dislike. In this section, we will explore a number of
factors that explain interpersonal attraction:
(a) Physical Attractiveness
One of the first things that attract us to another person is physical
attractiveness (size, shape, and facial features). Studies have shown that
even as infants, we favour more attractive faces. Physically attractive
people are also more likely to be popular and liked.
(b) Proximity
A key factor in attraction involves geographic, residential and other forms
of physical proximity (closeness). Studies have shown that the nearer you
live or work with someone, the more likely it is that you will like that
person simply because of repeated exposure. Just like familiar people
become more physically attractive to us, repeated exposure increases
overall liking.
(c) Similarity
We have a tendency to like people that are similar to us (those who share
common interests, values and beliefs). Similarity is an important factor in
long-term attraction. However, we are also often attracted to people that

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are very different from us. This is because we have a tendency to seek out
people whose qualities we admire, but personally lack.

1. Why are we attracted to some people and not others?
2. Why do we sometimes like people who are similar to us, and
sometimes people who are very different from us?

Aggression refers to the intentional infliction of some form of harm on others.
First, we will explore several theoretical perspectives on aggression. Next, we
will discuss some important determinants of aggression.

Why do human beings act so aggressively and violently towards each other?
Instinct theories suggest that human aggression stems from innate tendencies to
be violent towards each other. This view was supported by Sigmund Freud
among others. Freud believed that aggression stems mainly from a powerful
death wish possessed by everyone. According to him, this instinct is first aimed
at self-destruction, but is soon redirected towards others.

A similar view was proposed by Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel Prize winning scientist.
Lorenz suggested that aggression stems mainly from an inherited fighting
instinct that human beings share with many other species. The assumption is that
this instinct developed during the course of evolution because it helped ensure
that only the strongest individuals will pass on their genes to the next generation.
If you have ever watched any documentaries on wildlife, you would know that
in order for a male to mate with another female, he first has to fight with other
males and show that he is the strongest. However, while competition for mates
and territory is typical in the animal kingdom, the role of such factors in human
aggression is seriously questionable. Human aggression stems from a very large
number of different factors. Hence, the suggestion that human aggression stems
primarily from innate tendencies seems inappropriate (Baron & Byrne, 2000).

Drive theories suggest that human aggression stems from external conditions
that provoke the intent to harm others. The frustration-aggression hypothesis is
one of the more popular drive theories. According to this theory, frustration can
arouse a strong motive to harm others. Most social psychologists, however, reject
this view and consider it to be false.

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Modern theories of aggression do not focus on a single factor as the primary

cause for aggression like earlier theories do. In contrast, modern theories draw on
the progress in many fields of psychology in order to gain further understanding
of such behaviour. One example of a modern approach is the General Affective
Aggression Model (GAAM) as shown in Figure 10.2.

Figure 10.2: General Affective Aggression Model


According to this theory, aggression is triggered by various input variables ă

aspects of the current situation and/or tendencies individuals bring with them to
a given situation (Morris & Maisto, 2001). For example, imagine a person who is
frustrated (perhaps he/she comes from a low socio-economic background and is
struggling just to make ends meet), then he/she is insulted and provoked by
other individuals, combined with his/her exposure to aggressive models
(perhaps an abusive parent). These are all variables which fall into the first

Variables which fall into the second category include individual differences such
as personality traits which make it more likely for aggression to occur such as

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high irritability. The personÊs beliefs and attitudes about violence (perhaps
he/she believes it is normal and acceptable behaviour to be aggressive), values
about violence (perhaps violence shows courage or masculinity and is a good
thing). Finally, having specific skills related to aggression such as having
experience in fights and knowing how to use weapons.

According to the GAAM, these individual differences and situational variables

can lead to aggression through their impact on three basic processes:
(a) Arousal - may increase physiological arousal such as a faster heart rate;
(b) Affective state - may arouse hostile feelings and emotions; and
(c) Cognition - may arouse hostile thoughts or bring back violent memories.

Finally, depending on the personÊs appraisals (interpretations) of the current

situation and possible restraining factors such as law enforcement, aggression
may or may not occur. Try to think back to the last time you really got angry and
acted out aggressively. What made you explode? Was it something somebody
else did or said? Was it something to do with you ă are you irritable, or do you
feel unfairly treated? Perhaps it was something about the situation (e.g. being
drunk)? In fact, all of the above can lead to aggression.

1. Why do human beings act so aggressively and violently towards
each other? Discuss with your classmates. Explain based on all the
theories of aggression listed above.
2. Give an example of a time when you acted aggressively and try to
explain why you acted that way.


Have you ever wondered why people sometimes provide help to total strangers
and sometimes stand back and do nothing? Social psychologists are interested in
identifying the various factors which determine who is most likely to help under
what circumstances. Essentially, the goal is to understand and predict prosocial
behaviour. A prosocial act can be defined as an act that benefits another person,
but has no direct benefits for the person helping (Weiten, 2001).

The major inspiration for investigating prosocial behaviour was the real-life
murder of Kitty Genovese of New York in 1964. For more than 30 minutes, 38

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people watched a murderer stalk and stab a woman, but did not call the police.
Only 20 minutes after the whole incident was over and she was dead, the first call
to the police was recorded. The caller was a man who did not want to „get
involved‰. Why is it that people did not help? Was it simply because they were
heartless and unkind? The truth is by not helping, you can avoid a lot of potential
problems for yourself. Also, the bystander effect occurs when there are a lot of
people that could possibly come to the rescue. Most of the time, however, nobody
comes to the rescue because everybody assumes that somebody else will do it.

When faced with an emergency, a bystander must go through five crucial steps
involving decisions that either inhibit or enhance the likelihood of a prosocial
response. According to Baron & Byrne (2000), a bystander must:
(a) Notice the emergency;
(b) Correctly interpret what is occurring;
(c) Assume responsibility for providing help;
(d) Have the necessary skills and knowledge to help; and
(e) Decide to provide assistance.

Another important question that is asked in relevance to prosocial behaviour is ă

Is any prosocial act truly unselfish? Do we provide help purely on the basis of
altruism (an unselfish concern for the welfare of others) or is our motivation to
help based at least partly on egoism (concern about oneÊs own personal welfare)?

There is no concrete answer to this question, but researchers have found that
empathy is the key to helping behaviour. Empathy refers to our ability to feel
what the other person is feeling. For example, when we see another person
suffering, we also feel the pain, and try to help them. According to the empathy-
altruism hypothesis, if we feel empathy for others, we will help them regardless
of what we can gain for ourselves out of it. When you do not feel empathy, then
you start weighing out the benefits of helping against the cost of helping.


What are the factors that determine whether we will decide to help
another person or not?

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Try to think of a time when you could have provided help, but did
not. What made you decide not to help?

Ć Essentially, social psychologyÊs emphasis is mainly on understanding the

causes of social behaviour ă on identifying factors that shape our feelings,
thoughts and behaviour in social situations.

Ć Conformity within a group entails members changing their attitudes and

beliefs in order to match those of others within the group.

Ć Obedience can be defined as a type of social influence in which an individual

follows direct commands, usually from someone in a position of authority.

Ć An attitude can be defined as a learned predisposition to respond cognitively,

affectively and behaviourally to a particular object.

Ć Attribution is the way people understand the causes of things happening and
the causes of people's behaviour, including their own. It may be correct or
incorrect, and can form the basis of misunderstandings.

Ć People tend to veer towards prejudice because it allows them to boost their
own self-image while holding prejudiced views saves them considerable
cognitive (mental) effort.

Ć Discrimination is defined as treating members of a particular group unfairly

or differently because of their membership in that group.

Ć Instinct theories, drive theories and modern theories of aggression are some
of the theories of aggression.

Ć Interpersonal attraction can be explained due to physical attractiveness,

proximity and similarity.

Ć A prosocial act can be defined as an act that benefits another person, but has
no direct benefit for the person helping.

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Ć When faced with an emergency, a bystander must go through five crucial

steps involving decisions that either inhibit or enhance the likelihood of a
prosocial response. He or she must:
ă Notice the emergency;
ă Correctly interpret what is occurring;
ă Assume responsibility for providing help;
ă Have the necessary skills and knowledge to help; and
ă Decide to provide assistance.

Altruism Fundamental attribution error

Attribution Just world
Bystander effect Obedience
Cognitive dissonance theory Prejudice
Conformity Saliency bias
Egoism Schemas
Empathy Self-serving bias

Baron, R. A., & Byrne, D. (2000). Social psychology (9th ed.). Allyn and Bacon.
Davis, S. F., & Palladino, J. J. (2000). Psychology (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River,
New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R. J., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.

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Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioural study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and

Social Psychology, 67, 371-8.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Prentice Hall.
Piliavin, I. M., Rodin, J., & Piliavin, J. A. (1969). Good Samaritanism: an
underground phenomenon? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
1(4), 289-99.
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology themes & variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

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Topic  Personality
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Define personality;
2. Identify central concepts from the psychodynamic, learning,
humanistic, trait and biological perspectives;
3. Discuss the implications of personality theories; and
4. Compare different methods of personality assessment.

Have you ever tried a personality test in a magazine? I believe, almost all of us,
especially the ladies, have done so. Why do you think personality tests and
quizzes are so popular? Perhaps all of us have a natural instinct to find out more
about ourselves and what make us special. We also want to know how our
personality is different from that of our partnerÊs or friendÊs.

In this topic, we will learn about personality. We will first learn the meaning of
personality, and then, explore several psychodynamic perspectives. We will also
learn about personality theories and different methods of personality assessment.

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Personality can be defined as an individualÊs unique and relatively stable pattern
of thoughts, feelings and behaviours (Huffmann, Vernoy & Vernoy, 1997).
Essentially, your personality defines who you are. What patterns of behaviour
can be used to describe you? Are you shy and quiet, or are you outgoing and

The study of personality in psychology is mainly concerned with measuring

personality using scientific means to describe individual differences in
personality, and explaining how those differences in personality came about.
There are several factors which influence our personality including life
experiences, genetics, culture, and the way in which we were raised.

Imagine that both you and your colleague are at a party. Both of you do not
know anybody at the party except the host, who is busy with the other guests.
Your colleague takes the opportunity to meet new people and start conversations
with the other guests. On the other hand, you sit in a corner and pretend to be
busy reading a magazine. Does the situation influence your behaviour or is your
behaviour a reflection of your personality?

Many psychologists are interested in finding out how people usually respond to
situational demands. Personality psychologists, on the other hand, are more
interested in why you are different from the next person. In summary, this axiom
says it all - „there are few differences between people, but what differences there
are really matter.‰


Based on what you know about personality, describe the concept of

personality in your own words.


The psychodynamic perspective is interested in the factors that influence
behaviour, thoughts and feelings. Sigmund Freud was the pioneer of this
perspective. We will also explore some of the main ideas of Carl Jung and Karen

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11.2.1 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory

According to this perspective, personality is largely determined by unconscious
processes. Freud coined the term psychodynamics to mean the study of psychic
energy and how it is transformed and expressed in behaviour. Freud described
psychic energy as sexual and aggressive forces. However, other psychodynamic
theorists had different definitions for psychic energy. For example, Karen Horney
described psychic energy as the individualÊs struggle to deal with dependency.

According to Freud, behaviour is the end product of unconscious instincts and

drives such as sexual and aggressive forces. Sexual instinct (in FreudÊs terms,
referring to desire for any form of pleasure) is a fundamental factor in
personality development (Morris & Maisto, 2001). Freud suggested that
personality is formed around three structures:

(a) Id
Id, which operates according to the pleasure principle ă tries to obtain
immediate pleasure and to avoid pain. The id seeks to gratify any instinct
or desire as soon as it arises. However, since the id is totally unconscious
and is not in touch with the real world, it has only two ways of obtaining
(i) Through reflex actions such as sneezing to relieve unpleasant
sensations immediately; and
(ii) Through engaging in fantasy and wish fulfilment. This is when you
imagine a situation that partially satisfies your instinct and relieves
the uncomfortable feeling. You are engaging in wish fulfilment when
your boss insults you in front of your colleagues, and then you start
plotting what you are going to say or do next to get even with him.

(b) Ego
Ego controls all thinking and reasoning activities. Ego operates by the
reality principle. The ego tries to delay gratification through reasoning
intelligently so that it can satisfy the idÊs desires safely and effectively.

(c) Superego
Superego is the conscience or the moral standard that an individual
develops through socialisation (interaction with parents and society).
Superego compares the egoÊs actions with an ego ideal, and then rewards or
punishes the ego accordingly.

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The id, ego and superego work together ă the ego satisfies the desires of the id in
a reasonable, safe manner, and the superego approves or disapproves by acting
as our moral conscience.

The id, ego and superego also operate at different levels of consciousness
(conscious, preconscious and unconscious). Figure 11.1 demonstrates the level of
consciousness at which the respective personality structures operate.

Figure 11.1: FreudÊs structure of personality iceberg


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Table 11.1 summarises and emphasises the main points used to describe the
personality structures.

Table 11.1: Summary of FreudÊs Personality Structures

Description Development Principle Conflict
Id  Totally unconscious.  Present at Pleasure Irrational ă
 Primary process: birth. principle acting
wishing, fantasising  Innate. according to
in order to gain what feels
immediate good doing.
 Reflex action.
Ego  Operates partly  Develops Reality Rational ă the
consciously, pre- from between principle goal is to
consciously and birth and two delay
unconsciously. weeks. gratification
 Secondary process: through
thinking, reasoning, reasoning
problem solving, intelligently
judgment, so that it can
perception, learning. satisfy the idÊs
desires safely
Superego  Operates at the  Totally Morality Irrational ă
conscious, learned. principle demands
preconscious and  Demands perfection.
unconscious levels. perfection.
 End product of


1. Using the psychodynamic perspective, briefly explain the sources

of personality.
2. Explain what Freud meant by the term psychic energy.

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Think about something you really want. Then, describe the role of id,
ego and superego in satisfying your wants. Share your answer with
your coursemates.

11.2.2 Freud’s Psychosexual Stages

According to Freud, our personalities are well established by the time we reach
five years of age. FreudÊs theory of psychosexual development explains how
personality develops through various stages during childhood in which certain
erogenous areas become the focus of psychic energy (libido). When all these
psychosexual stages are completed successfully, we develop a healthy
personality. In contrast, when certain stages are not completed properly, fixation
may occur. Strong conflicts at one of these stages cause the individual to be
fixated (stuck) at the stage until conflicts are resolved in the particular stage. For
example, a person who experiences fixation at the oral stage may look for oral
stimulation in smoking or over-eating, and may be very dependent on others.

At the oral stage, the infant derives pleasure from the mouth through sucking,
drinking, and eating. An infant who is not fed enough (neglected) or is overly fed
(over-protected) may experience oral fixation during adulthood.

Individuals who are orally fixated may develop two possible types of
(a) Oral receptive personality: individuals seek to reduce tension by
overeating, smoking, drinking, or biting nails. They tend to be needy and
overly dependent on others.
(b) Oral aggressive personality: individuals have a tendency to be hostile and
verbally abusive.

At the anal stage, the child begins toilet training and seeks pleasure from the
erogenous zone of the anus. The successful completion of this stage depends on
the interaction of the parent with the child during toilet training. If the parent
praises the child and rewards him/her for going to the toilet at the right time and
then right way, then the stage is completed successfully.

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However, if the parent punishes the child and uses harsh demands during toilet
training, it can lead to anal fixation:
(a) Anal retentive personality: stingy, compulsively tidy and orderly, stubborn,
(b) Anal expulsive personality: lack of self control, messy, careless.

During the phallic stage, the source of pleasure is focused at the genitals. At the
end of the phallic stage, boys experience the Oedipus complex while girls
experience the Electra complex.

Boys experiencing Oedipus complex:

(a) Will develop a sexual attraction for their mothers, and are jealous of their
(b) May imitate his father and make every effort to be like him in order to gain
his motherÊs attention.
(c) Suffer from castration anxiety in which the son fears that his father will
castrate him because he believes that his father knows about his desire for
his mother. Thus, he represses his desire for his mother and identifies with
his father instead.

Similarly, girls experiencing the Electra complex:

(a) Will compete with their mother for their fatherÊs attention.
(b) Suffer from penis envy where the daughter realises she does not have a
penis, blames her mother for this, and desires to be like her father and have
a penis.

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Table 11.2 summarises FreudÊs psychosexual stages.

Table 11.2: FreudÊs Psychosexual Stages

Focus of Psychic
Stage Age Key Development Fixation
Energy (Libido)
Oral 0 to 1 Mouth, tongue, lips Weaning off breast Smoking,
feeding overeating
Anal 1 to 3 Anus Toilet training Orderliness,
Phallic 3 to 6 Genitals Resolving Deviancy, sexual
Oedipus/Electra dysfunction
Latency 6 to 12 None Developing defence None
Genital 12+ Reaching full - -
sexual maturity

11.2.3 Karen Horney’s Feminist Psychoanalysis

Karen Horney modified some of FreudÊs ideas to develop a more feminist
perspective on personality development. For instance, she argued against FreudÊs
theory of penis envy. Horney suggested that the penis was a symbol of social
power, rather than a sexual organ that women actually desired. Horney posited
that girls realise that they are being denied social power because of their gender.
She argued about girlsÊ secret desire to be boys. Instead Horney stated that girls
desired the social power and preferences given to boys in the culture of that time.

Horney coined the term fear of success to emphasise a gender difference in reaction
to competition and achievement situations. She argued that many women felt that
they would lose their friends if they became successful. Therefore, many women
carried a fear of success with them unconsciously. In contrast, she suggested that
men believed they could gain friends by being successful. The importance of culture
in influencing behaviour is emphasised in HorneyÊs perspective.

11.2.4 Carl Jung’s Analytic Psychology

Carl Jung was one of FreudÊs many students who decided to break away from
FreudÊs Psychoanalytic Society due to some major disagreements with FreudÊs
psychoanalytic theory. Unlike Freud, JungÊs main goal of therapy was not to
bring the unconscious into consciousness. Rather, Jung was trying to find a

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balance in which the unconscious was given an equal role which complemented

Jung believed there was more to the unconscious than what Freud had suggested.
Jung observed that there were extraordinarily similar experiences and behaviours
that all of us display across time and culture. He believed these experiences and
behaviours are influenced by the collective unconscious. The collective
unconscious is a collection of our experiences and knowledge as a species.

Let us explore some of the experiences that exhibit the effects of the collective
unconscious. One example is the amazing similarities of spiritual experiences of
people all over the world no matter what religion they belong to. Parallels in
dreams, mythologies, folklores, and literature also show the effects of the collective
unconscious. Have you ever had a dream where you were falling down or flying?
In fact, people all over the world have experienced this same dream.

The collective unconscious influences personality through archetypes.

Archetypes can be understood as unlearned tendencies to experience things in a
certain way (sort of like instincts). Some examples of archetypes include the
anima/animus, the shadow, and the self. The anima is the feminine side of the
male and the animus is the masculine side of the female. According to Jung, we
all possess an unconscious opposite gender inside us and the role of this
archetype is to direct us towards our suitable partner. As we project our
animus/anima onto others, they project theirs onto us as well. We will find a
suitable mate when a match is made.

Another archetype is called the shadow. The shadow is the dark side of our
personality which is unconscious. Finally, the self archetype is the part of us that
connects to the universe and is a part of the universe. It is the unifying whole that
brings together consciousness and unconsciousness.

1. How is HorneyÊs interpretation of penis envy different from that
of FreudÊs?
2. What are the main differences in ideas between Jung and Freud?
3. Give your own example of how the collective unconscious has
influenced your behaviour and experiences.
4. What are archetypes? Explain in your own words some examples
of archetypes.

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From this aspect, personality is considered to be an accumulated set of learned
tendencies. Many aspects of our behaviour are learned; and behaviour
contributes to the individualÊs personality.

11.3.1 Behaviourist Theories

John B. Watson first established the school of behaviourism. He is most famous
for his controversial „Little Albert‰ experiment (1920). In this experiment he
conditioned an eight month old baby to be afraid of white rabbits (Figure 11.2).
He did this by pairing the presence of a white rabbit with a loud, frightening

Figure 11.2: „Little Albert‰ experiment


B. F. Skinner is another prominent figure in the school of behaviourism. SkinnerÊs

contribution to the behavioural perspective is tremendous. His theory is based on
operant conditioning and reinforcement (we discussed this in Topic 5). Both
Watson and Skinner believed that our personality develops as we learn
behaviours through external events (e.g. conditioning/reinforcement).

According to behavioural psychologists, behaviour can be learned and changed

through conditioning and reinforcement. The conditioning of emotional
responses (or emotional conditioning) is important to the learning perspective on

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personality. According to this view, your preferences or likes and dislikes that
help define your personality are the result of the process of emotional
conditioning. Remember classical conditioning in Topic 5?

For example, linking a neutral stimulus to a pleasant event creates a like; and
linking a stimulus to an unpleasant event creates a dislike. We have different
patterns of likes and dislikes which play a part in each of our unique
personalities. Hence, emotional conditioning can play a major role in creating the
uniqueness of oneÊs personality.


How do behaviourist theories explain the sources of personality?


Give an example to describe how emotional conditioning has played

a role in shaping a specific personality trait of yours. Compare your
answer with those of your coursematesÊ.

11.3.2 Social-cognitive Theories

Albert Bandura and Julian Rotter are two prominent figures in the social-
cognitive perspective. Bandura developed the social learning theory and the
theory of self-efficacy. He is also famous for his Bobo doll experiment in which
children exhibited aggressive behaviour on a Bobo doll after watching an
aggressive film. Contrary to Watson and Skinner, Bandura and Rotter believed
that personality develops through behaviour learned through observation
(observational learning). Figure 11.3 shows some great stills from this

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Figure 11.3: The Bobo experiment


Julian Rotter also developed influential theories such as social learning theory
and locus of control. According to social learning theory, your internal
expectancies and values guide your behaviour. Our behaviour is the outcome of
the interaction between cognition (how we think), learning and past experiences
(reinforcement, punishment, and modelling). We evaluate situations according to
certain internal expectancies such as personal preferences, and this evaluation
affects our behaviour.

For example, you may like mathematics if you are good at it and you expect to
receive good grades for the subject. On the other hand, you may dislike biology
because it involves a lot of reading and you do not usually perform well in the
tests. The way in which we interpret situations determines how we will behave
in a given situation.

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How do our internal expectancies affect our behaviour? There are two main
expectancies which we use to evaluate situations:

(a) Locus of Control

It is an expectancy by which we evaluate situations. If you have an internal
locus of control, you believe that you control your own fate. On the other
hand, if you have an external locus of control, you believe that chance, luck
and the behaviour of others determine your fate, and that you are helpless
to change it. People who have an external locus of control tend to be
depressed and abuse drugs.

(b) Self-efficacy
It is the expectancy that your efforts will be successful. If you have a low
sense of self-efficacy, then you are most likely to feel incapable of achieving
your goals.

In you own words explain how internal expectancies affect our


Give an example of how certain internal expectancies and values

have helped shape your personality. Compare your answer with
your coursematesÊ.


Psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers are advocates of the
humanistic perspective. This view emphasises peopleÊs potential for growth and
their subjective experiences in the present rather than focussing on the past. This
approach holds all of us personally responsible for our lives. The following
paragraphs will discuss some of the concepts central to the humanistic

Self actualisation refers to the need of all humans to realise their full potential as
individuals and to become everything they are capable of becoming. Abraham
Maslow came up with the concept of self actualisation and portrayed it as the

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highest level in his hierarchy of needs pyramid. At the lowest level of MaslowÊs
hierarchy of needs pyramid are our most basic and physiological needs such as
food, sex, sleep and shelter. The need for self actualisation is right at the top of
the pyramid. It is only after we have satisfied our basic needs and other needs
that we reach the top of the pyramid. Figure 11.4 shows MaslowÊs hierarchy of
needs pyramid.

Figure 11.4: MaslowÊs Hierarchy of Needs


Actualising tendency is the drive of all humans to fulfil their biological potential
and to become the best that they can be. This concept is found in Carl RogerÊs
humanistic psychology. According to Carl Rogers, a fully functioning person is
an individual whose self-concept closely resembles his or her innate capacities or
potential. Such people make decisions based on what they want to do, and will
not conform to other peopleÊs expectations of them. When people lose sight of
their innate potential and capacities, they feel anxious, insecure and constricted.
They are unlikely to experience real satisfaction in their lives because their lives
are directed towards other peopleÊs expectations of them. At some point they
may realise that they do not really know who they are and what they want.

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Explain how actualising tendency can affect behaviour and


1. Jim Morrison, a rock legend from the 70s band, The Doors died of
an apparent heart attack after continuous abuse of drugs and
alcohol. Some say that MorrisonÊs death and self-destructive
behaviour were caused by pressure from the music industry and
neglect from his parents. Others argue that Jim Morrison brought
his own death upon himself by his self-destructive behaviour.
Which of these views do you think is more humanistic? Please
elaborate on the reasons for your answer and post it in the forum.
2. Are you a fully functioning person? Please elaborate on the reasons
for your answer.


Traits are relatively stable and consistent personality characteristics. The main
concern of trait theories is firstly discovering how people differ (which key traits
best describe them), and then measuring how much they differ. Trait theorists
stress that people are only different by the degree to which they possess certain
personality traits such as sociability and aggressiveness.

The assumption that some traits are more basic than others is common among
many approaches to personality. It is believed that a small number of primary
traits determine most other traits. For example, a personÊs tendency to be irritable,
restless and impulsive might all be derived from a basic tendency to be excitable.

Gordon Allport (1937) believed the best way to understand personality was to study
an individual and then arrange his or her unique personality traits into a hierarchy,
with the most important and pervasive traits at the top and the least important at the
bottom. Cardinal traits are at the very top of AllportÊs hierarchy. Allport believed
just one or two cardinal traits shape the lives of certain rare personalities, for
example, Mother TeresaÊs humanitarianism and Adolf HitlerÊs hatred.

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However, few people possess such dominant and pervasive traits. In contrast,
central traits are certain tendencies that are highly characteristic of an individual.
These are traits that are easily identified by others (e.g. shy, quiet and friendly).
Finally, secondary traits are not as important or effective as descriptions of
personality (e.g. outdoor/nature kind of person, socially conscious).

Using AllportÊs contributions to the theory of personality as stepping stones,

psychologists such as Raymond Cattell and Hans Eysenck were able to identify
primary traits or key personality traits they believed constituted a core
personality. Both Cattell and Eysenck identified core personality traits by using
the statistical procedure of factor analysis. CattellÊs conclusion was that the
personality of an individual can be described by measuring just 16 traits. Eysenck
found that most personalities can be described in terms of three dimensions ă
introversion-extroversion, neuroticism and psychoticism.

Factor analysis was also used by Robert McCrae and Paul Costa (1987) to
develop the five factor model of personality. McCrae and Costa suggest that
personality traits are derived from five higher-order traits. These traits are now
known as the „Big Five‰: extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience,
agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Table 11.3 describes the Big Five.

Table 11.3: The Five Factor Model of Personality Traits

The Big Five Description of Traits

Extraversion Outgoing, sociable, friendly, assertive, gregarious
Neuroticism Anxious, hostile, self-conscious, insecure, vulnerable
Openness to experience Curiosity, flexibility, unconventional attitudes
Agreeableness Sympathetic, trusting, cooperative, modest, straightforward
Conscientiousness Diligent, disciplined, well-organised, punctual, dependable


1. What is the main emphasis of trait theories?

2. What are cardinal traits?
3. What are primary traits?
4. Briefly describe the five factor model of personality traits.

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Have you ever been told that your personality resembles the personality of one
of your parents? Or perhaps you have accepted that you have actually inherited
some personality characteristics from your parents? This acceptance of genetic
influence on personality is widely recognised together with the growing
awareness that personality cannot be separated from biological factors.

Researchers have found that biological differences in people (e.g. brain structures
and hormone levels) often translate into differences in behaviour (Burger, 2008).
Even new-born babies have certain „characteristics‰ which set them apart from
their peers. If you have not noticed before, some babies tend to be more irritable
and cry more, while others are quiet and contented.

Researchers are convinced that these „characteristics‰ are present at birth, and
not caused by other factors such as how the baby is cared for and so on.
Furthermore, they argue that these general „characteristics‰ are stable and
constant throughout the lifespan of an individual. This does not mean that some
people are born shy and others outgoing. Rather, it means that one person is born
with a greater disposition to certain characteristics such as shyness than the other

Psychologists refer to these general behavioural dispositions as temperaments.

Temperaments can be best understood as general patterns of behaviour and
mood which can develop into stable personality characteristics. Where do
temperaments come from? The conclusion reached by psychologists is that
temperaments are largely inherited. Others argue that temperaments develop as
a result of a complex interplay of a personÊs genetic predispositions and the
surrounding environment.


What kind of implications do these findings about temperaments

have? Does this mean that we can predict what type of personality a
person will have as an adult based on the personÊs temperament at
infancy and in childhood? What do you think? Discuss this with
your coursemates.

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11.6.1 Evolutionary Personality Theory

This theory is based on the assumption that we develop certain personality
characteristics as a result of evolution ă that personality traits have played a role
in ensuring our survival. The personality trait of anxiety, for example, is often
used to support this notion that personality traits developed as an outcome of

Anxiety is an unpleasant emotional state that all of us are familiar with. We are
often anxious when asked to give a speech to a room full of people or worry
what others will think of us. When was the last time you felt anxious? What was
the reason? Most of the time, our anxiety is a result of our fear of receiving
negative evaluation and facing real, possible or imagined rejection. Psychologists
suggest that because of our universal human need to belong and to be part of a
group, anxiety is inevitable. Thus, psychologists have concluded that the main
cause of anxiety is social exclusion.

For example, many people are anxious about growing old. They are anxious that
other people will not find them attractive anymore and thus, fear rejection in a
sense. However, psychologists say that without this terrible anxiety, the human
species would not have survived. The explanation goes like this ă primitive
people who lived in groups were most likely to survive compared to if they lived
alone in isolation. Therefore, anything that motivates people to avoid behaviours
that might lead to social exclusion would help them survive. If you think about
it, most of the behaviours that lead to social exclusion are usually the ones that
lead to the destruction of harmony in society. For example, adultery and various
forms of aggression such as murder and rape.

1. How does evolutionary personality theory help explain why we
developed certain personality traits?
2. Can evolutionary theory also be used to explain other personality
traits (excluding anxiety)? Please give an example and describe
how this personality trait evolved.

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Imagine you want to know about someoneÊs personality. How would you find
out more about it? You might spend some time talking to the person, listening to
what they have to say and observing their behaviour. Psychologists use these
same basic methods to assess personality as well. While interviews and
observations are fundamental methods of collecting data about an individualÊs
personality, they are also highly time consuming methods.

The limitations of interviews and observations can be partially overcome by

using objective tests. Essentially, objective tests consist of self-report
questionnaires (in which people are asked to describe themselves). These tests
can be administered to a large number of people in a relatively short period of
time. As a result, objective tests are one of the most popular methods for
assessing personality.

Objective tests often consist of multiple-choice questions asking how you would
behave in a variety of situations. Projective tests use ambiguous, unstructured
stimuli such as inkblots, which can be perceived in many ways. One of the more
popular projective tests is the Rorschach test (refer to Figure 11.5). The idea
behind the Rorschach test came from the notion that differences in perception are
related to differences in personality. What do you see when you look at the
inkblot in Figure 11.5? Your response is supposed to reflect the unconscious parts
of your personality that you project onto the ambiguous stimuli.

Figure 11.5: The Rorschach Inkblot test


Taking the Rorschach test as an example - interpretations of the clientsÊ responses

largely depend on the subjective evaluation of the examiner (Morris & Maisto, 2001).
Two examiners may interpret the same response in very different ways. However,
attempts to standardise the scoring system for the Rorschach test are improving.
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The method of personality assessment depends on which of the major personality

theories the experts adhere to. For example personality psychologists usually use
self-report tests, while psychoanalysts are more interested in what people are unable
to describe directly (Burger, 2008). Behavioural psychologists on the other hand,
observe behaviour. To sum it up, the measure of personality used by a psychologist
depends on his or her definition of personality. Table 11.4 describes several major
personality theories and the methods of assessment used to evaluate personality.

Table 11.4: Major Personality Theories and Assessment Techniques

Determinants of Methods of
Theories and Key Concepts
Personality Assessment
Trait Allport Heredity and Objective
(cardinal, central, environment (self-report)
secondary traits) combine to create inventories
personality traits. (e.g. MMPI),
(16 source traits)
extroversion, stability-
instability, psychoticism)
Costa and Mcrae
(„Big Five‰: openness,
Psychoanalytic Freud Unconscious Interviews &
(unconscious, id, ego, conflicts between id, projective tests
superego defence ego, & superego (e.g. Rorschach,
mechanisms, Oedipus lead to defence TAT)
complex, Electra complex) mechanisms.
(inferiority complex)
(collective unconscious,
Horney (basic anxiety)
Learning Watson Personality Observation,
(stimulus-response) develops from interviews
interaction with the

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Determinants of Methods of
Theories and Key Concepts
Personality Assessment
Humanistic Rogers Personality is the Interviews,
(self-concept, self- outcome of your objective
esteem, unconditional subjective (self-report)
positive regard) experience of reality inventories
Social-cognitive Bandura Personality is the Observation,
(self-efficacy, reciprocal outcome of an objective, (self-
determinism) interaction between report) inventories
cognition (thinking)
and environment.
(locus of control)
Biological Zuckerman Brain structures, Observation,
neurochemistry, and objective
Tellegen et al.
genetics greatly (self-report)
Kagan et al. influence inventories, animal
personality. studies, biological
methods of
Source: Huffman, Vernoy and Vernoy (1997)


1. Describe the methods of personality assessment typically used by

biological, humanistic and psychodynamic theories, and explain
why these specific methods are used.
2. Compare objective tests and projective tests. What are the
advantages and disadvantages of using these tests?

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 Personality can be defined as an individualÊs unique and relatively stable

pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

 According to the psychodynamic perspective, personality is largely

determined by unconscious processes.

 Freud suggested that personality is formed around three structures: id, ego,
and superego. The id, ego and superego work together ă the ego satisfies the
desires of the id in a reasonable, safe manner, and the superego approves or
disapproves by acting as our moral conscience.

 From the learning perspectives, personality is an accumulated set of learned

tendencies. Many aspects of our behaviour are learned and behaviour
contributes to the individualÊs personality.

 The main concern of trait theories is firstly discovering how people differ
(which key traits best describe them), and then measuring how much they

 Biological differences in people (e.g. brain structures and hormone levels)

often translate into differences in behaviour.

 The method of personality assessment depends on which of the major

personality theories experts adhere to. For example personality psychologists
usually use self-report tests, while psychoanalysts are more interested in
what people are unable to describe directly.

Actualising tendency Psychic energy

Ego Reality principle
Id Self-efficacy
Locus of control Superego
Pleasure principle Wish fulfilment

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Burger, J. M. (2008). Personality (7th ed.). Thomson Wadsworth.

Cloninger, S. (2004). Theories of personality: Understanding persons (4th ed.).
Pearson Prentice Hall.
Conn, S. R., & Rieke, M. L. (1994). The 16PF fifth edition technical manual.
Champaign, IL: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.
Duffy, K. G. & Atwater, E. (2009). Psychology for living: Adjustment, growth and
behavior today (7th ed.). Prentice Hall.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.
Larsen, R. J., & Buss D. M. (2008). Personality psychology: Domains of
knowledge about human nature (3rd ed.). McGraw Hill.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.). Upper
Sadle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology themes & variations (5th ed.).
Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

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Topic  Psychological
12 Disorders
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Evaluate abnormal behaviour;
2. Describe four major types of anxiety disorders;
3. Compare somatoform disorders with dissociative disorders;
4. Identify common symptoms of mood disorders;
5. Explain the causes of schizophrenia; and
6. Group personality disorders into three clusters.

Psychological disorders come in various „shapes and sizes‰. Some are severe and
obviously noticeable, while other disorders are more mild and discreet. The field
of psychology that is concerned with psychological disorders is called abnormal
psychology. In this field, one of the most difficult challenges is to define
abnormal behaviour. We will explore this issue and also the various
psychological disorders that people all around the world fall victim to.

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Figure 12.1: Is this behaviour normal?

Figure 1.1 shows a man eating a shoe. Is this behaviour normal? Psychologists
would say no, as the behaviour prevents the man from functioning normally in
everyday life in regard to his work, social interaction and personal care.


I have a friend that is constantly worried that she might have some disease or
another and often goes to the doctor for medical tests although she is perfectly
healthy. Is she normal? Another friend washes his car twice a day and rearranges
the furniture in his house everyday. Is he normal? How do you judge what is
normal and what is abnormal?

The DSM IV-TR or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is the standard
abnormal psychology and psychiatry reference book in America. It consists of a
list of disorders together with detailed descriptions on what constitutes a
disorder. It also provides the symptoms and other general information that will
aid psychologists and psychiatrists in diagnosing a particular disorder.

Clinical psychologists depend on several criteria (as shown in Table 12.1) in

making their diagnoses for abnormal behaviour.

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Table 12.1: Criteria in Making Diagnoses for Abnormal Behaviour

Criteria Description
Deviance People whose behaviour deviates from social norms are often said to
have a disorder. When people go against these socially accepted
behaviours, they are usually labelled abnormal. For example, initially,
homosexuality was considered to be abnormal behaviour by
psychologists. However these days, it is no longer considered to be
abnormal behaviour as homosexuality has gained acceptance in many
countries around the world.
Maladaptive People are judged as abnormal when their behaviour prevents them
behaviour from functioning normally in their everyday lives. For example, alcohol
and drug use in itself is not abnormal, but when the use of these drugs
begins to interfere with a personÊs social or occupational functioning, a
substance abuse disorder is clearly present.
Personal The diagnosis of a psychological disorder is often based on an
distress individualÊs description of their subjective pain and suffering or personal
distress. This is usually the case with people suffering from depression
and anxiety.

As you can see, the diagnosis of physical illnesses is very different from that of
mental illnesses because judgments about mental illnesses often reflect current
cultural values, social trends, political forces as well as scientific knowledge.


Explain in your own words the criteria used by clinical psychologists

to evaluate abnormal behaviour.

Based on your expectations and socialisation, evaluate the behaviour
expressed in Figure 12.1. Is this behaviour normal or abnormal?
Make a list of several criteria which will enable one to distinguish
fairly clearly abnormal behaviour from normal behaviour.

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12.1.1 Models of Abnormality

The medical model (first developed around the nineteenth century) applied to
abnormal behaviour holds abnormal behaviour as a disease. This is why
abnormal behaviour is often referred to as psychological disorders. Prior to the
medical model, people with abnormal behaviour were thought to be possessed
by evil spirits. Thus, the medical model brought a significant improvement in the
way people with abnormal behaviour were treated. However, the medical model
is not necessarily the best way of viewing abnormal behaviour according to some
critics. For example, Thomas Szasz argues that „disease or illness can affect only
the body; hence there can be no mental illness⁄Minds can be `sickÊ only in the
sense that jokes are `sickÊ or economies are `sickʉ. Szasz views abnormal
behaviour as „problems in living‰ rather than an illness or disease.

We have come a long way, but we are definitely not there yet when it comes to
treating people with abnormal behaviours, psychological disorders or mental
illnesses. In fact, the mistreatment of people with mental illnesses in Malaysia is
very disheartening for a developing, modern country such as ours. The primary
reason for the sometimes abusive and almost cruel treatment of mentally ill
people throughout history has been the lack of understanding of the nature and
causes of psychological disorders (Morris & Maisto, 2001). We certainly need a
new model for abnormal behaviour.

Currently, there are three existing influential models of abnormality as shown in

Table 12.2.

Table 12.2: Three Existing Influential Models of Abnormality

Model Description
Biological Psychological disorders are caused by a physiological malfunction in
the brain and nervous system. For example, people suffering from
depression are believed to have abnormally functioning endocrine
glands which release less endorphins or „happy hormones‰.
Psychoanalytic Developed by Sigmund Freud, this model postulates that
psychological disorders are caused by unconscious conflicts which
can usually be traced to childhood. For example, a person who lacks
empathy towards others and behaves in antisocial and violent ways
may be unconsciously expressing anger towards her father for being
abusive and violent during her childhood.
Cognitive- Psychological disorders are learned just like any other maladaptive
behavioural behaviour is learned. For example, a person who experiences a
traumatic event such as drowning may develop anxious responses or
phobia towards similar situations and related events.

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Construct a new model for abnormality which will improve the way
mentally ill people are currently treated and perceived. You may
brainstorm ideas with a partner if you like.


We all experience anxiety from time to time. It is a perfectly normal response to
many of lifeÊs difficulties. However, some people experience anxiety at a chronic
level. These people experience high levels of anxiety with disturbing regularity.

There are four major types of anxiety disorders as shown in Table 12.3.

Table 12.3: Four Major Types of Anxiety Disorders

Disorder Description
Generalised  Noticeable by a chronic, high level of anxiety that is not linked to any
anxiety specific threat.
 Constant worry about past mistakes and future problems.
 Frequent worry about minor issues related to family, money, work
and illnesses.
 Physical symptoms such as muscle tension, dizziness and heart
palpitations are common with high levels of anxiety.
Phobic  Noticeable by a persistent and irrational fear of an object or situation
that presents no realistic danger.
 Tends to interfere with everyday life. For example, Becky has a rather
unusual fear of rain which prevents her from going out of the house
when it is raining.
 People can develop phobic reactions to almost anything. People
suffering from phobic disorders realise that their fears are irrational, but
are still not able to remain calm when confronted by a phobic object.
Even looking at a picture of the object is enough to trigger anxiety.
Panic  Marked by regular attacks of overwhelming anxiety that usually
happens suddenly and unexpectedly.
 Usually accompanied by physical symptoms of anxiety. After having
a few panic attacks, victims usually become very worried about when
their next attack will happen so much so they are afraid to leave their
house. This condition is called agoraphobia.

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Obsessive-  Known as OCD.

compulsive  Characterised by persistent, uncontrollable intrusions of unwanted
thoughts (obsessions) and urges to engage in senseless rituals
(compulsions) (Weiten, 2001).
 Obsessions often revolve around causing harm to others, sexual acts
or suicide. People disturbed by obsessions feel like they have no
control of their mind.
 Common examples of compulsions include rituals that temporarily
relieve anxiety such as constant washing of hands, repetitive cleaning
of things, and endless rechecking of locks, the stove and so on.
 Most people with OCD show signs of obsessions and compulsions,
but some may only experience either one.

12.2.1 Causes of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders can be caused by biological, psychological or environmental
factors. These factors are explored in Table 12.4:

Table 12.4: Factors that Play a Role in the Occurrence of Anxiety Disorders

Factor Description
Heredity There is clear evidence that anxiety disorders run in the family and
can be passed down through genes. Twin studies show that identical
twins are more likely to both suffer from an anxiety disorder
compared to siblings.
Brain chemistry Anxiety disorders may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the
brain. As a result, medication is often prescribed to relieve the person
suffering from the anxiety disorder.
Personality People with certain personalities are more prone to suffer from
anxiety disorder. For example, people who have low self esteem or
poor coping skills may have a greater disposition towards anxiety
Life experiences People with certain life experiences such as long-term exposure to
abuse and violence, or poverty are more susceptible to anxiety

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1. Explain in your own words the four major types of anxiety

2. Identify the common symptoms of anxiety disorders.


Somatoform and dissociative disorders are very much related to anxiety
disorders in the sense that anxiety is the root cause of both these disorders.
However, in anxiety disorders, signs of anxiety are obvious, while in somatoform
and dissociative disorders, anxiety is not necessarily observable (Davison &
Neale, 2001).

12.3.1 Somatoform Disorders

Somatoform disorders are physical ailments (aches and pains) that are mainly
due to psychological factors. People with this disorder usually fail to realise that
their pain is caused by psychological factors, thus, they continue to seek
treatment from doctors instead of psychologists or psychiatrists.

We will explore three different types of somatoform disorders:

(a) Somatisation disorder

Characterised by a history of diverse physical complaints that appear to be
psychological in origin. The unique feature of this disorder is the diversity
of the individualÊs physical complaints. However, it is highly unlikely that
an individual will experience such a diversity of symptoms in reality; thus,
this comes as a warning sign to any doctor that the patient might instead
need to be referred to a psychologist.

(b) Conversion disorder

Marked by a major loss of physical function, usually in a single organ
system. Common symptoms include partial or total loss of hearing, of
vision, ability to speak, or function in limbs. This disorder appears to be
relatively rare compared to hypochondriasis and somatisation disorder.

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(c) Hypochondriasis (hypochondria)

Marked by excessive and constant worry with health concerns and getting
illnesses. When hypochondriacs are told by their doctors that they do not
really have any physical illness, they are often sceptical and not persuaded.
They usually assume that the doctor must be lousy, and they move on to
the next doctor.

12.3.2 Dissociative Disorders

Dissociative disorders are an unusual type of disorder in which people lose
partial consciousness or memory, resulting in disturbances in their sense of
identity. We will discuss three dissociative syndromes in Table 12.5.

Table 12.5: Three Dissociative Syndromes

Syndrome Description
Dissociative A sudden loss of memory for important personal information that
amnesia is usually not easily forgotten. For example, memory loss may
occur for a single traumatic event such as a car accident, or for an
extensive period of time after the event. Common cases of amnesia
have been reported after people have experienced rape, abuse and
Dissociative fugue Permanent loss of memory and sense of personal identity. People
with this disorder forget their name, family, and where they live.
However, they remember other things unrelated to their personal
identity such as how to ride a bicycle or how to calculate.
Dissociative Two or more very different personalities exist together in one
Identity Disorder person. This disorder was formerly known as multiple personality
(DID) disorder. Each personality is complete with its own name,
memories and physical gestures. The multiple personalities are
usually unaware of each otherÊs existence and very different from
each other. For example a shy, introverted person may develop an
assertive, extroverted alternate personality. Although many books
and movies frequently portray DID, the condition in reality, is
quite rare.

1. Describe the common symptoms of somatoform disorders.
2. What is the difference between somatoform and dissociative

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Apply the cognitive-behavioural model to explain the causes of

somatoform and dissociative disorders.


Mood disorders are characterised by emotional disturbances of various types
that may interfere with physical, perceptual, social and thought processes. Mood
disorders come and go, and are spread out among periods of normality. These
episodes usually last about 5-6 months. Naturally everybody experiences lows
and highs in terms of mood, but people with mood disorders experience extreme
changes in mood.

There are two primary types of moods:

(a) Major depressive disorder
People with this disorder experience a lasting and continuous depression
which prevents them from being able to function normally ă work, play,
and looking after themselves. They may sleep continuously, neglect
personal hygiene and feel suicidal. These feelings are without any apparent
reason. Depressed individuals have a hard time thinking clearly or
recognising their own problems, but with help from family and friends,
they may improve.

(b) Bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive disorder)

Marked by the experience of one or more episodes of mania usually
followed by periods of depression. When a person is experiencing mania,
they feel almost euphoric, their self-esteem is sky high, and they are filled
with energy and optimism. They become hyperactive and sometimes
cannot sleep for days. They talk fast, and get many different ideas at the
same time. They also tend to be impulsive in their behaviours. Judgment is
often impaired. Although milder manic states may increase productivity
and creativity, high levels of mania is marked by impaired judgment which
can lead people to do crazy things that they greatly regret later.

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1. Describe the common symptoms of major depressive disorder.

2. Describe the common symptoms of bipolar disorder.

The literal meaning of schizophrenia is split mind. Schizophrenia is often
confused with dissociative identity disorder; however, they are completely
different, and the former is much more common than the latter. Schizophrenia
disorders are characterised by hallucinations, delusions, disorganised speech,
and worsening of adaptive behaviour. Mood disorders and schizophrenia share
some of the same symptoms. However, disturbed thought is the root of
schizophrenia, while disturbed emotion is the root of mood disorders.

Before we explore the distinct schizophrenic symptoms, let us discuss some of

the general characteristics they share.
(a) Delusions and Irrational Thought
Disturbed, irrational thought processes are the primary feature of
schizophrenic disorders. Delusions are false beliefs that persist even though
they clearly are out of touch with reality (Weiten, 2001). For example, one
victimÊs delusion that he is a monkey persisted for more than seven years.
More commonly, victims often believe that their thoughts can be heard by
other people or that thoughts are being put into their head against their
will. In delusions of grandeur, the belief that they are somebody famous is
maintained. Another typical feature of schizophrenia is that the personÊs
thinking becomes chaotic, and they often shift from one topic to another
without any logic.

(b) Deterioration of Adaptive Behaviour

An obvious deterioration in the victimÊs quality of work, social relations
and personal care is noticeable.

(c) Hallucinations
Essentially, hallucinations are distortions in perception. Auditory
hallucinations are most common in schizophrenics.

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12.5.1 Types of Schizophrenia

In this subsection we will discuss the four different types of schizophrenia as
shown in Table 12.6.

Table 12.6: Types of Schizophrenia

Types Description
Paranoid Characterised by delusions of persecution and delusions of grandeur.
It is a common type of schizophrenia in which people come to believe
that other people are always out to get them. They are usually
suspicious of people and sometimes believe they are being watched.
To make sense of this „persecution‰, they often develop delusions of
Catatonic Characterised by significant motor (movement) disturbances such as
rigid muscles. Victims may develop catatonic stupor which is when
they remain almost like a statue without moving and may seem
unaware of their environment and surroundings for long periods of
time. Others may go into a state of catatonic excitement in which they
become extremely active, illogical, and all over the place.
Disorganised Noticeable by a significant worsening of adaptive behaviour.
Common symptoms include social withdrawal and emotional
indifference. Meaningless chatter and giggling are also common.
Delusions often revolve around physical functions such as thinking
that your blood is going to turn solid, or that your heart is going to
literally explode.
Undifferentiated People who cannot be placed into any of the three previous
categories, but who are clearly schizophrenic are said to have
undifferentiated schizophrenia. People who suffer from this disorder
have a mixture of schizophrenic symptoms. This type of
schizophrenia is quite common.

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12.5.2 Causes of Schizophrenia

There are many factors that may play a role in the occurrence of schizophrenia.
Let us examine some of the perceived causes of schizophrenia. Among these are
as shown in Table 12.7.

Table 12.7: Causes of Schizophrenia

Causes Description
Genetics Schizophrenia may be passed down by genes. A mother with
schizophrenia is likely to pass down the genes to her child ă
meaning that the child has a greater disposition towards
schizophrenia and may develop it in his/her adolescent years.
Infections Viral infections present in utero or in childhood may cause
schizophrenia later on in life.
Substance abuse The use of strong drugs or substance abuse can trigger
schizophrenia. The excessive release of dopamine when using
amphetamines is believed to be responsible for many symptoms of
Life experiences Stressful life events such as social exclusion in childhood,
psychological adversity, discrimination, sexual abuse, and other
traumas can trigger schizophrenia.

1. What is the difference between schizophrenia and dissociative
identity disorder?
2. Describe the common symptoms of schizophrenia.


Apply the psychoanalytic model to explain the causes of


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We have seen that it can be quite hard to draw the line between what is normal
and what is abnormal. This rings even truer for personality disorders which are
relatively mild disturbances compared to the rest of the disorders we have
discussed. People with personality disorders have maladaptive personality traits
that cause significant social or occupational problems. The Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) lists ten different personality
disorders. Table 12.8 shows a summary of the ten personality disorders. These
personality disorders can be grouped into three clusters:

Table 12.8: Personality Disorders Grouped into Three Clusters

Clusters Disorders Description

Anxious/ fearful Avoidant personality Extremely sensitive to potential rejection,
disorder humiliation, or shame; and although they
desire to be socially accepted, they tend
to withdraw themselves into isolation.

Dependent personality Very low self-esteem; always allow other

disorder people to make decisions for them and
often allow their needs to be secondary
and of lesser importance than the needs
of others.
Obsessive-compulsive Constantly preoccupied with
personality disorder unimportant details, rituals, rules and
schedules. Very conventional, serious
and formal; not able to show warm
Odd/eccentric Schizoid personality Unable to form close social relationships
disorder. and express warm feelings for others.
Schizotypal personality Socially handicapped; odd perception
disorder. and way of thinking.
Paranoid personality Persistent and unjustifiable
disorder suspiciousness and mistrust of people;
and extremely sensitive.
Dramatic/ Histrionic personality Overly dramatic and have a tendency to
impulsive disorder exaggerate emotions; self-centred; and
constantly looking for attention.
Narcissistic personality Self-centred and consider themselves
disorder. highly important; preoccupied with
success fantasies, lacking in empathy.

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Borderline personality Unstable mood and unsteady

disorder relationships with other people;
unpredictable and impulsive.
Antisocial personality Chronically violating the rights of others;
disorder fail to form attachments to others;
reckless and exploitative.


Describe and explain in your own words an example of one

personality disorder from each „cluster‰.

 Three criteria used in diagnosing people with psychological disorders are:

deviance, personal distress and maladaptive behaviour.

 The anxiety disorders include generalised anxiety disorder, phobic disorder,

panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

 Somatoform disorders include somatisation disorder, conversion disorder

and hypochondriasis.

 Dissociative disorders include dissociative amnesia, fugue disorder and

dissociative identity disorder.

 People suffering from major depressive disorder experience emotional

extremes at only one end of the mood range ă they only experience
depression. People suffering from bipolar disorder experience both ends of
the mood range ă they experience periods of both depression and mania
(excitement and euphoria).

 Schizophrenic disorders are marked by worsening of adaptive behaviour,

delusions, hallucinations and disturbed mood.

 Some of the causes of schizophrenic disorders are genetic, infections,

substance abuse and life experiences.

 Personality disorders can be grouped into three clusters: anxious-fearful,

odd-eccentric, and dramatic impulsive.

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Agoraphobia Hallucinations
Anxiety disorders Hypochondriasis
Bipolar disorder Major depressive disorder
Catatonic schizophrenia Personality disorders
Delusions Schizophrenia
Delusions of grandeur Somatoform disorders
Dissociative disorders

Davison, G. C., & Neale, J. M. (2001). Abnormal psychology (8th ed.). John Wiley
& Sons.
Gazzaniga, M. S., & Heatherton, T. F. (2003). Psychological science: The mind,
brain and behaviour. London: W.W Norton & Company.
Gerrig, R. J., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2008). Psychology and life (18th ed.). Boston:
Pearson Education.
Huffman, K., Vernoy, M., & Vernoy, J. (1997). Psychology in action (4th ed.). John
Wiley & Sons Inc.
Millon, T. (1981). Disorders of personality: DSM III. New York: Wiley.
Morris, C. G., & Maisto, A. A. (2001). Understanding psychology (5th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, New Jersey : Prentice Hall.
Weiten, W. (2001). Psychology themes & variations (5th ed.). Wadsworth/
Thomson Learning.

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Copyright © Open University Malaysia (OUM)

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