Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Physiology of multiple personalities or DID

Until World War II most psychiatrists believed that mental illness resulted from issues encountered in childhood. However, when it was discovered that the vast majority of concentration camp survivors reported a happy childhood, this theory needed to be revisited. Eventually it was concluded that chronic mental illness could develop in persons who had a harmonious childhood but who had been subjected to extreme physical and psychological stress. This created a paradigm shift in the field of psychology in their understanding of the way extreme stress could affect adults and how it should be treated.

Dissociation is the act of separating oneself from your awareness. It occurs naturally for most of us when performing uninteresting or monotonous tasks. However, dissociation exists on a continuous spectrum and when it occurs and there is an actual identify shift it is considered a mental disorder and referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

Almost all DID subjects are victims of severe and chronic childhood sexual and physical abuse. These subjects are also often diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or borderline personality, in addition to DID. Epidemiological studies have shown that DID exists in 1-3% of the general population.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), fourth edition, in section 300.14, defines the essential features of DID as: “the presence of two or more distinct identities or personal states that recurrently take control of behavior. There is an inability to recall important personal information, the extent of which is too great to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or general medical condition.”

I was unable to find statistically based information regarding the average number of alter states, but based upon my reading it would not be unusual to have a many as five to ten alters, each with distinctive emotional attributes, age, and physical demeanor. Each alter state has one of two identity states. Either a neutral identity state (NIS) that inhibits memory of the trauma or a traumatic identity state (TIS) that has access and responses to the trauma. The dissociation associated with this disorder acts as a defense and enables victims to maintain a relatively healthy level of functioning because traumatic memories are disconnected from other information in their minds

The most effective psychoanalytic treatment involves attempting to integrate the multiple states. As some patients progress with this treatment they are able to volitionally transfer between alter states. These subjects are very useful in experiments attempting to gather physiological data on this disorder.

To date, very little is known about the physiology of DID. Two reasons for this are because of its only recent acceptance as a disorder and the dynamic nature of the disorder. Alter state switches, which are of most interest, occur within seconds making analysis difficult.

Recent studies have focused on the limbic system and specifically the hippocampus. It is very sensitive to stress making it an excellent candidate for exploration. It is very important for remembering where you were and what you were doing when something important happened; in other words, providing context. Several studies have linked stress to reduced hippocampal volume.

Because of the excellent temporal and spatial resolution of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), it is an excellent tool to study this type of disorder.

The Tsai et al. study performed a structural and functional MRI on a middle aged woman who was diagnosed with DID. The structural test measured the volume of the hippocampus and compared it to normal values. The functional test attempted to determine the area(s) of the brain that were active during the switching between alter states.

This study found that while the subject’s intracranial volume was normal, her hippocampal volume was 50% smaller than values for normal females. Additionally, during the state switch from NIS to TIS there was bilateral hippocampal inhabitation (less activity during switching than normal state) with more inhabitation on the right side (subject was right handed). The right parahippocampal and medial temporal regions were also inhabited. The switch from TIS to NIS created only right hippocampal activation. In addition to confirming other studies regarding the diminished hippocampus, the study concluded that the hippocampus and medial temporal could be involved in the switching of states.

The Vermetten et. al. study compared hippocampal and amygdalar volumes of approximately twenty female subjects with DID to a like number of healthy subjects.

The results showed the DID subjects had a 19.2% smaller hippocampal volume and a 31.6% smaller amygdalar volume than healthy subjects. They also measured the ratio of hippocampal to amygdalar volume and found it to be larger in the DID group. This finding is consistent with the findings of other experiments in which the subjects were victims of extreme abuse.

This study suggested that since the hippocampus is a major target for glucocorticoids, which are release during stressful experiences, this could be the source of atrophy of the hippocampus. No rational was attempted for difference in amygdalar volume, nor was the difference in the ratio of volumes explained.

The Reinders study measured the emotional response of eleven DID subjects first in the NIS state and then in the TIS state. Each alter was read two sets of information. One that was neutral and the other trauma related. The premise was that the TIS when listening to trauma related information would: 1) exhibit emotional processing similar to patients with PTSD, 2) have more emotional and sensorimotor reactions, and 3) have higher heart rate and blood pressure. PET diagnosis was used to gather the data. The measurements used by the study were changes in regional cerebral blood flow and autonomic reactions.

The finding verified their premise. When the alter was in the TIS state the reaction to trauma related information showed completely different brain areas were effected than when read the same information in the NIS state.

Since it is believed that DID subjects exhibit anomalies in memory, consciousness, and perception the Dorahy et al study attempted to determine whether subjects had working memory processing problems that are not present in normal subjects. Also, if there were problems did they exist in both the NIS state and the TIS state.

This study performed three tests to determine the capability of working memory to process in a normal manner for all subjects. While results were quite technical, the findings were somewhat surprising in that no significant differences existed in the function of working memory between DID subjects and non-clinical ones.

The DSM is the gold standard for US mental health professionals for describing and diagnosing mental disorders. The latest version was published in 1994 included the description of DID previously referred to. This inclusion should be enough to extinguish doubts about this disorder. For evidence that it is a very conservative publication, it was not until the 1970s that it removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

In spite of this, the disorder remains somewhat controversial. A vocal minority of psychologists don’t believe that it is possible for a person to have multiple personalities without some prompting. In my opinion they are like the European doctors in the second half of the 19th century who after being told by Ignac Semmelweis to wash their hands before delivering a baby, scoffed at the advice and continued killing their patients with their germ infected hands. Others are not sure exactly how to differentiate this disorder from others such as PTSD or borderline subjects. This conclusion is understandable and will be resolved as we learn more about the impact of trauma.

In addition resistance comes from several sources such as: resistance to the recognition of the widespread physical and sexual abuse of children by parents; resistance to a paradigm shift in treating emotional ill patients differently than physically ill ones; resistance as a result of personal investment of professionals to a different outcome; and resistance because its treatment is difficult, intense, and long term.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Male Archetypes – Jung’s solution to the “epidemic of adolescent syndrome”

Part OneIntroduction to the unconscious and archetypes.

Freud was the first psychologist to posit that humans had an unconscious. This resulted from his belief that each effect or behavior of his patients must have a cause. Since many of the causes appeared unknown to either Freud or his patients, he theorized that they were caused by an unknown or an “unconscious.” Freud further believed that the psyche consisted of three parts: the id, which is within the unconscious, and the ego and superego which are partially in the conscious and the unconscious. The id consists of primitive survival urges, the superego holds our values or morals, and the ego mediates between the two.
Carl Jung, a student of Freud’s, modified that theory because he believed that there was a positive, creative side to the unconscious. His model of the psyche contained the ego which was the conscious mind, the personal unconscious that contained ideas that were not currently conscious but could be conscious, and the collective unconscious or reservoir of knowledge that we are born with, but are never directly conscious of.

Jung formulated that humans do not have separate, personal unconscious minds but that we share a single universal unconscious with the entire human race. Using a computer analog, a portion of our minds are like subdirectories within a large universal network called the collective unconscious. This subdirectory has access to use all information that has ever been filed on the network.

Jung’s biggest contribution to understanding the psyche was his theory that within the collective unconscious are archetypes which are defining models or blueprints of classical personality types. They represent a commonality of human experiences over extended periods and thus their population is immense. Jung found them present in all cultures and reflected in art, literature, myth and religion throughout the ages.

These archetypes provide the very foundations of our behaviors - our thinking, our feeling, and our characteristic human reactions. All of our social conduct is a result of expressing one or more of these archetypes.

How archetypes work

Since archetypes are within the unconscious empirical evidence of their existence is not possible. However, using actual “invisible” forces to explain them can be helpful. If iron filings are placed upon a sheet of paper that has a magnet underneath it, the filings will align themselves based upon the energy of the magnetic field generated by the magnet. This field acts on and rearranges the filings, but it is invisible. Thus, all of our behavior results from the invisible influence of one or more archetypes.

How archetypes behave

These archetypes may merge or constellate thus acting in conjunction with one another. When this occurs the ego referees this interaction and determines which archetype and in what proportion will appear. They are at their most powerful when this happens because a blended archetype is most effective at handling problems.

Focusing on the makeup of an individual archetype, each is characterized by three sets of behaviors. The first is the positive healthy behavior. The other two are active and passive dysfunctional or shadow forms. When the ego is overly identified with the archetype, or actively dysfunctional, it becomes inflated. When the ego is minimally identified with the archetype it is passively dysfunctional and is deprived of the archetypes strengths. At any one time the archetype will be operating out one of these behaviors.

Part twothe male masculine archetypes

In discussing the masculine psyche, I will describe four separate archetypes; the king, the warrior, the magician, and the lover along with the shadow behaviors that characterize them. These four archetypes are universal archetypes that all males have contained within their own psyche.

The King

The King archetype, although seemingly archaic in a modern democracy, manifests itself in any position of authority over others, whether as business executive, chief executive officer, president, or general. He conducts his kingdom, realm, or organization by the highest ethical standards.

The King is the central male archetype. He integrates power and nurturing, firmness and caring, courage and creativity. His chief qualities are that of ordering, and of reasonable and rational thought. He brings stability and calmness to out of control and chaotic circumstances. He guides and nurtures others to reach their full potential. He has a firm and kindly outlook toward all. Unfortunately, there are very few examples in today’s society. Historically, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Queen Elizabeth are examples.

The positive shadow King is the Tyrant. The Tyrant is destructive; he often reacts with fear and rage. In pursuit of his own self interest, which he often is, he can be merciless and without feeling. His own weakness gets projected on others. He does not do well with young people, either his or others. He is demeaning and disinterested towards them. His enmity can be both physical and sexual. While common to some extent in all males, the Tyrant is frequently found in males with narcissistic disorders. These are people who believe the universe revolves around them and others are there to make their lives easier. The tyrant frequently occurs within certain professions more than others. In the criminal world, drug lords and pimps are examples. Tony Soprano often exhibits the Tyrant. In the corporate world they also exist. Examples abound within the halls of Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Purdue Pharma LP, producer of Oxycontin, and others.

The passive shadow of the King is the Weakling. Projecting his own weakness, he often attacks people he feels are weak. They are insecure and frequently are out to punish others before they get punished. They exhibit paranoid tendencies. They frequently turn over their power to others thus abdicating their own responsibilities as happened at Jonestown in 1978.

The Warrior

The Warrior is the basic building block of the masculine psyche; it’s as if it is within our genes. The history of man is a history of war. The great warrior personality has existed in every society throughout history. He can be seen in the soldier, policeman, martial arts master, or sports hero. He is a model of courage, discipline and self-control.
The Japanese samurai is an excellent example of the Warrior psyche. In their tradition they faced life head on and marched only in one direction – forward, they were always alert, and knew how to focus their body and mind.
The Warrior understands the importance of training to develop skill, power, and accuracy, all performed with control, both inner and outer, psychological and physical.
The warrior operates most effectively in conjunction with one or more of the three other masculine archetypes. When interfacing with the King he is using his discipline and courage to lead his organization in the proper direction. Interfacing with the magician he is able to direct and control his power to accomplish his goals. The combination with the lover gives the warrior compassion. On the other hand, acting alone as the warrior can be problematic leading to emotional detachment and problems with interpersonal relationships.
The active shadow side of the Warrior is the sadist who lacks the ability to empathize. Well known figures that represent this archetype are: Darth Vader, the passionless killer in the Star Wars movie and the god of the Old Testament who reduces the planet to rubble and nearly kills every living thing.
In contemporary life we see this figure as the guards at Abu Ghraib who tortured and abused the prisoners, in the bosses who unjustly fire or harass undeserving employees, and in husbands who beat and abuse their wives and children.
In addition to appearing in occupations such as the military, a personality disorder referred to as obsessive compulsive is very often susceptible to this shadow side.
The masochist is the passive version of the warrior and is a pushover or a wimp. Operating under this version he is unable to set boundaries in service of himself and others. Failing to be able to activate the warrior prevents him from taking the actions necessary to make his dreams come true, from accomplishing his goals, and from getting his assignments completed. Basically it prevents from getting done what needs to be done.

The Magician

The magician has both materialistic and nonmaterialistic powers. His materialistic powers make him both the knower and the master of technology. All knowledge that requires special training is within his scope. In past eras the magician was the holy man, the witch doctor, the wizard, and the shaman. He was the sole person with special powers based upon his unique knowledge. He was sought out to answer the unanswerable questions by the king and others. This knowledge makes him a powerful archetype.
The nonmaterialistic powers include personal growth, awareness and insight, thoughtfulness and reflection, and transformation.
In this age of technology the Magician should be a very strong figure and he is for the material part of his identity. However, in the personal growth and transformation, or nonmaterial areas, his influence is seldom seen within our culture. Lance Armstong’s transformation from cancer victim to ultimately winner of the tour de France might be an example.
The active shadow version of the magician is the manipulator. The manipulator is detached, unrelated, and withholding to others when he could be helpful. He uses knowledge as a weapon to belittle and control and to increase his status and wealth.
We see him today in the form of propaganda and controlled media briefings from governments, the artificially orchestrated political rallies, and the misrepresented advertising in the media. It also appears in the growing complexity of the legal system, especially tax law that requires the use of special knowledge that financially benefits the manipulator to the detriment of the average citizen.
The Innocent One, the passive shadow version, lacks an inner security. He wants the power of the Magician, but is unwilling to make the commitment to become one. The Innocent One is illusive; he keeps us off balance and makes confrontation difficult. We recently saw it in Alberto Gonzales, the US Attorney General, when he testified before the US Senate.

The Lover

The Lover is receptive to the environment, he is emotional and sensitive, and he is alive and passionate. He lives on his intuitions and gains knowledge about his world through sensations and emotions, not rational thought like the Magician. He gives us our spirituality.
He is the opposite of the Warrior. He is opposed to the boundaries, enclosures, order, and discipline of the warrior, king, and magician. For this he is often persecuted by the Church.
The Lover is frequently manifested in life in creative people such as artists, composers, authors, chefs, and in all of us who stop and “smell the roses.” In our present culture the main presence is in our “love lives.”
The active shadow of the Lover is the Addict. He is overcome with his sensations. His primary characteristic is lostness and exhibits it in several ways. He becomes unbalanced and frequently exhibits addictive behavior; he is shortsighted and lives only for the pleasure of the moment; he is eternally restless and is always searching for something.
The passive shadow is the impotent lover. He displays a lack of enthusiasm, a lack of motivation, and is generally depressed.

In conclusion, in a balanced masculine male these four archetypes all fit together. Each of us needs to have and express each one, in a balanced way. Too much of one, and too little of another, and there will be an imbalance. Then the shadow takes over, and you begin to act out of the shadow, instead of acting out the truth of your higher nobler self.

What we can do

Today Carl Jung might say that the evolutionary process has placed four powerful masculine archetypes within each male. It is now up to each one of us to decide how we can transform ourselves from living our lives under the power of the boy psychology into real men guided by these archetypes. We desperately need more Don Quixote’s and fewer Don Imus’s.

Resources for this report were two books, “King Warrior Magician Lover, rediscovering the archetypes of the mature masculine” by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette and The Hero Within by Carol Pearson.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What is Art? Can A Civil War be Art?


A brief history of European Art

While objects of art had been created for several thousands of years, it was only during the Renaissance that the word “art” was first used as a collective term to encompass the activities of painting, sculpture, and architecture. Subsequently, this was expanded to include music and poetry and these activities became known as “fine arts”.
During the Middle Ages art objects were created to serve the Church and its teachings. The objects generally consisted of paintings of religious figures with little or no attempt at realism.
The next major movement in painting, started with the renaissance and moved into impressionism, consisted of creating realistic images of people and landscapes, usually for rich patrons.
As a result, the original artistic theory formulated by philosophers was that of imitation—the evaluation of artworks by their relation to the real world. It was a good artwork if it was a good rendering of something already in existence. Because existing media used by artists were quite limited, identifying art was easy, the only issue was quality. Many of the greatest works of art are appreciated for the resemblance of their depiction to reality.
In the twentieth century recognizable objects began to disappear from the canvases of artists and music became atonal and dissonant. The essence of art was no longer to depict reality, but to emphasize the aesthetics used to create the object. This has made the issue of identifying an art object more difficult.

Art and Philosophy

Modern philosophers have contemplated the question of what makes art good or bad, in fact, what makes art? There are almost as many answers to those questions as there are philosophers. Until recently, however, most theories fell into one of two categories. The first was that the object itself has certain aesthetic qualities that make it art and the second was the measure its emotional impact on its audience. However, because the great variation in art today there is widespread disagreement about this issue.
In 1757 David Hume wrote “The Standard of Taste.” He advocated a subjective standard believing that art is in the eye of the beholder, even though some critics are more qualified to pass judgment than others. While he believes in the existence of general rules of art or aesthetics, he knows that everyone will view them differently. Hume feels the best way to determine art is via the judgment of those who are experienced in the field.
Hume outlines what is required to improve one's taste and to be a true judge of some kinds of art. The factors that are needed are: "Strong sense, united to delicate sentiment, improved by practice, perfected by comparison, and cleared of all prejudice." However, Hume agrees that finding these capabilities within one person will be a challenge.
Hume outlines a very broad brush approach to evaluating art, basically leaving it up to the art expert to make the decision. Unfortunately, however, he offers very little to objectively help in deciding the issue. Hume’s article was written when the imitative theory was popular and before much of a controversy existed. Thus, it is not surprising that his review lacks sharp focus and penetration.
One hundred and fifty years later, in 1896, Leo Tolstoy wrote “What is Art.” He agreed with the latter theory arguing that art is a method of communicating feelings. He stated “Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously, by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that other people are infected by these feelings...” Thus art is created, in his opinion, when an artist expresses his emotions, via his chosen media, to his audience.
Acceptance of this theory makes drastic changes in what is normally accepted as art. Because the spectrum of human emotion is quite broad, this definition is inclusive of many activities that would not normally be thought of as art. Tolstoy stated, “All human life is filled with works of art of every kind.” He would include as art “all human activity transmitting feelings … for which we …attach special importance.” Additionally, because emotion must be felt by the viewer, it potentially eliminates much of today’s existing art.
To test the quality of the art, Tolstoy proposes a method of assessing the infectiousness of the emotion transmitted. He measures the infectiousness using three conditions: 1. the amount of individual feeling transmitted by the artist, 2. the clearness of expression transmitted, and 3. the sincerity transmitted by the artist. Tolstoy felt the third criterion was the most important and is the main reason why good art has such a powerful reaction on the viewer. Also, if none of these conditions are present than the object is not art, or is counterfeit art.
Tolstoy refers to an additional concept for evaluating art that he refers to as “religious perception” or religious consciousness to differentiate the quality of art. He believes that Christian art is the only art that “tends to unite all without exception.” This is a very narrow ethnocentric view. The fact that creators of Western religious images have an inside track on art is na├»ve.
I am troubled by the theory that the intention of an artist is available at all times to the user and is the sole standard for judging whether or not it is art.. It took Michelangelo four years to finish the Sistine Chapel fresco. How or at what point do you determine his emotion behind the work? Might he have had several? Because J. S. Bach wrote his Cantatas solely because his job required him to compose music for his church service and therefore we can assume with little or no emotion, can it be denied that they are not art? While there are certain exceptions like Munch’s “The Scream,” when asked to explain the emotion that the artist might have had when creating the art object, the answer will reveal more about the person giving the answer then the creator of the art object.
Like almost all philosophers approaching this problem, Tolstoy’s evaluation is very personal and doesn’t make a universal statement about art.
In 1984, Thomas Wolfe, one of America’s leading authors, wrote “The Worship of Art” for Harpers Magazine. It is more a sociological based article than philosophical one in which he expresses his dislike of the current minimalist art movement, particularly that of sculpture.
He observes that today educated Easterners view religion as a matter of “social pedigree” and art as their new religion. By religion he means a conspicuous badge worn to indicate status and wealth to others. To prove his argument he claims that it is currently fashionable for the wealthy to give financial gifts to the arts instead of religion. And instead of erecting cathedrals as they have done in the past, large corporations are donating money to built “gigantic cultural complexes” like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Wolfe does not give any theory on what art is, except that he does like the “pictures and sculptures” from previous eras, and he does not like minimalist sculptures.
Wolfe is an interesting writer with good inside into people. However, based upon this article I am not impressed with his ability as an art philosopher.
Finally, Arthur Danto, in 1964, wrote “The Art World.” He is a well known art critic and philosopher. Danto agrees that “telling art works from other things is not so simple a matter,” and more importantly he sees this as a challenge, not an affront like Wolfe.
To explain his theory, Danto uses the example of two items that are identical, but one of them is a work of art and the other is just an object. His example is a box of brillo pads and a sculpture of a box of brillo pads. There is no perceptual method that can be used to identify which one is the artwork. Therefore, he concludes that art must defined by philosophic, not perceptual means.
To develop his theory he defines an “artworld” as an environment where artistic theory and knowledge of art history exist. Then it is a necessary and sufficient condition of a work of art that it is created in an artworld. Applying this theory to the above example, if the sculpture was created in an artworld, it is art.
He does not give a specific definition of artworld so I can only guess that includes most, if not all, of the organizations involved with art including art schools, museums, art critics, and universities. My objection to this definition is that it could be to elitist by rejecting some works based upon lack of sophistication of the creator that might otherwise qualified.
Can a Civil War be Art?
Until the twentieth century, art represented pictorially the society that produced it. Such things as dress, rituals, religion, and politics are all seen represented in art of the period. Today it is still a representation of society, but the media used for the representation has expanded.
From the Middle Ages until the renaissance there was little change in the appearances of most art. Starting in the seventeenth century various schools of thought began to appear which gradually changed art from realistic to abstract. Recent developments significantly expanded of the use of its materials, media, activity and concept used to create the art work. This new movement emphasized that the concept or idea involved in the work was more important than the traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Art has become a more cognative activity and identifying it only through visual means become limiting.
Examples of such art are: Duchamp's Fountain, created in 1917, was a standard urinal basin, Rauschenberg painting in which he erased a drawing by De Kooning, John Cage’s musical composition which consisted of twenty minutes of silence, and recently Creed’s The Lights Going On and Off, an empty room where the lights go on and off. Additionally, the entire genre of Performance Art which is any situation that involves four basic elements: time, space, the performer's body and a relationship between performer and audience.
Since theory and knowledge expand over time, what is defined and accepted as art must also change. The world has to be ready for certain things, as Danto points out “there could not have been flight insurance in the middle ages.” This outlook leads me to embrace Danto’s perception of art – an object created in an artworld is art.
Such major changes in art are (1) so different from any previous movement, and (2) comprehensive enough to allow other artists to contribute, that Thomas Kuhn would have referred to it as a paradigm shift. With this shift new theories are necessary to allow the idendification of art. It can not longer viewed as simply an aestetic endeavor.
A civil war is a war in which groups within the same nationality fight against each other for the control of political power. An additional requirement is for a certain number of casualties, usually over 1000. It is almost always fought over ideology, where each side believes in and is ready to die for their beliefs. It always is accompanied by strong emotions on both sides.
I believe that art doesn’t exist without an artist to create it. Since a civil war has no creative intent behind it, it cannot be a work of art. Reality is not art, even though some may argue that God is the creator. A sunset may be beautiful, but it is not art. Wind chimes may be musical, but it is not music. However, there are some aspects of a civil that might otherwise qualify it as art.
Tolstoy’s requirement of emotion would certainly be there. Viewers who were citizens of the country where the war is taking place would certainly have high emotions for their cause. Additionally, the sincerity of emotion would be clear on the faces of the participants of the war. However, I believe Tolstoy would say there is no emotion communicated from the artist to be communicated to the viewer.
Danto would comment that it was not created in an artworld. Reality, while it may be beautiful, is not art.
Another argument against it being art is the geographic size of a civil war. The size makes the concept incomprehensible to the viewer. They are usually fought intercountry making its size, even in a small country, of hundreds of square miles.

In 1991 Christo and 1,880 workers opened 3,100 umbrellas in Ibaraki, Japan and California, in two inland valleys, one 12 miles and the other 18 miles long. While this is a large artwork, it is quite small compared to any civil war.
The counter argument might be that this is really a series of art objects where the battles and skirmishes are the individual pieces.
Hume would probably say “Ask Danto and whatever he said would be right,” since art is in the eye of the beholder, especially a knowledgeable one.
Wolfe would probably write a sarcastic essay on the absurdity of calling this art.
There are two other areas that need to be mentioned. The first would be live coverage of the war via television or video on the Internet. Both of these in a sense would have a creator, the crew that filmed the event. Assuming that the crew had proper training and understanding of television techniques and it history, it would seem that this would fit either Tolstoy’s or Danto’s requirements for art.
The second would be either a painting or a photograph of a battle scene. Both of these, while not being a war, would also be art under either theory.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Final - psychologically speaking

1. Introduction to Psychology

Definition The etymology of the word psychology is from the Greek “psyche” which means “mind” and “logos” which means “knowledge or study of.” However, instead of the study of the mind, psychology is generally defined as the study of behavior and mental processes. Because of the diverse activities of the participants in this field this definition is somewhat limiting.

Is psychology science? Karl Popper divided theories or statements into two groups, scientific and everything else. He wrote that what made a theory a scientific theory is that it is falsifiable. It must be stated to predict some outcome and if such outcome does not occur than the theory is false. An example would be “all swans are white.” Thus, the highest status for any scientific theory is that to date it has not been proven false. All other theories or statements that are not falsifiable are not scientific. They may be useful or helpful, they just aren’t science. Many theories used successfully in psychology are not scientific.

The methods used by scientists attempt to minimize the influence of bias or prejudice in the experimenter. In addition, it is the task of science to describe, explain, and control the specific process that it is investigating.

Psychology is a unique field in that has two major divisions, clinical and experimental, and embraces multiple paradigms. The clinical side is rationalist and metaphysical and the experimental side that is empiricist and scientific. Because of the complexity of the subject matter both sides are necessary for a complete answer to all of the questions posed.

Research Methods Used The criteria used to determine the best research method are: cost of the research, the ability to minimize confounding variables (internal validity), and generalizibility or external validity.

The research methods are: Archival research – based upon existing data, Low cost, but must rely on existing data; Survey – use of polls to gather data, good external validity, subject bias or untruthfulness; Observation - Naturalistic observation of a natural setting without interference,
good data, little control, observer bias, causation is difficult; Observation - Direct equipment used to measure results, environment control, observer bias; Case Study or clinical method - allows accurate subjective info via subject interview, not good external validity; Experimental – test performed on subjects, can show causation, lurking variables; may not be realistic.

2. Schools of psychology

Psychodynamic School
Founders Dr. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was the founder of the psychodynamic movement. Other major contributors were several of Freud’s students, Carl Jung, Karen Horney, and Alfred Adler.

Assumptions - human nature. Freud was pessimistic about human nature and felt most people would require saving from their helplessness and insecurities. He believed childhood is a series of psychosexual stages whose outcome largely determines our adult personality
Assumptions – philosophical Freud was a determinist, that is, he assumed that all behavior had a cause. He was also a clinician so his research was directed at helping his patients. His theories were rationalist theories.

Principal Theories – Freud had a very complete and comprehensive theory of human nature. His greatest contribution was his positing of the unconscious. Because some of his patient’s disorders did not have an apparent cause he decided they must come from an unknown or unconscious source. He

He developed a tripartite theory for the psyche, most of which is located in the unconscious. The id contains the instinctual sexual drives which require satisfaction, the super-ego contains the conscience, and the ego is the conscious self.

The psychic energy or libido fuels the psyche. Anxiety or stress is caused by the ego failing to resolve a conflict between the id and superego. The id causes neurotic anxiety and the superego causes moral anxiety. The egos tool to combat these conflicts is called defense mechanisms.

Freud believed that the instincts are the principal motivating forces and that we have only two instincts. Eros (the life instinct), which covers the drive to live, prosper, and reproduce, and Thanatos (the death instinct), which covers all the instincts towards aggression, power, and cruelty.

Freud thought the mind of a child developed through a series of conflicts. Successful resolution results in a normal adult. Failure to reach resolution can result in mental illnesses. The stages are as follows: Oral Stage from 0-1 years; Mouth is focus of libido energy; Anal Stage from 1-2 years, Child goes through potty training. Anus is symbol of control; Phallic Stage from 3-6 years, Phallus is symbol of power. Two complexes emerge, Oedipus & Electra; Latency Stage from 7-12 years, Libido is latent; Genital Stage from 12 -Psyche maturity

He developed psychoanalysis or a method of clinically treating clients by talking with them about their conflicts and emotional problems.

Freud thought that dreams represented unfulfilled wishes or desires and that through dream interpretation he could discover the contents of his clients unconscious.

Dominant research method As a clinical based school with a rationalist philosophical basis the most popular research method would be case study. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to measure the validity or existence of any of Freud’s theories. Therefore any data acquired by the researcher would be from subjective statements of the sample subjects.

Discussion of a study An example is one that would demonstrate the existence of an unconscious. Such a study would be a picture interpretation test where the patient is shown a series of ambiguous pictures and is asked to provide an interpretation of each one. It is assumed that the patient’s response would reflect a repressed personality quality within the unconscious. However, as previously mentioned the internal validity of this study would be questionable.

Psychological disorder treatment Freud believed that all disorders resulted from repression of memories or conflicts involving sex or aggression. Therefore, treatment would require the resolution of the conflicts. His methodologies to do this were free association, dream analysis, resistance or blockage analysis, and analysis of transference.

Evaluation – Freud’s theory of the unconscious was one the great discoveries of all times. While some theories of this school have been discarded, many are still in use by clinical psychologists today. Jung’s followers, referred to as depth psychologists, are in practice today. Karen Horney’s work on female emotions helped start the feministic movement. On the negative side, their theories lacked scientific validation, their interpersonal skills in providing treatment was lacking, and Freud’s emphasis on sex was generally incorrect.

Behaviorist School
Founders The leading proponents of this school were Russian born Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936), who discovered the conditioned reflex and classical conditioning, John Watson (1878-1958) who wrote that man and animals were emotionally equivalent and that all behavior was stimulus response based, B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) who developed operant conditioning that demonstrated behavior based upon consequences, and Edward Tolman (1886-1959) who introduced latent learning and significantly changed the direction of this school.

Assumptions - human natureThe Behaviorist believe that all human behavior results from its interaction with its environment. That learning results only from stimulus and response. Therefore, creating any desired behavior is only a matter of introducing the right stimulants.

Assumptions – philosophical This school is deterministic and empirical. They believed that if it can’t be measured then it doesn’t exist and that psychology should be studied using objective methods of physiology.

Principal Theories While narrow in scope, this school made huge strides explaining how we learn, or how our behavior is influenced by our experiences. Pavlov concluded that our response to the environment is through either conditioned or unconditioned reflexes. An unconditioned reflex is a species typical reflex generated by our physiology, such as sneezing or a knee jerk. A conditional reflex is one “learned” through continuously reacting to both a neutral and an unconditioned stimulus. His famous experiment of ringing a bell that caused a dog to salivate is the example of classical conditioning, which is based upon antecedent conditioning.

Skinner introduced operant conditioning which is learning based upon consequences. It is much broader than classical conditioning because it does not need a biological reflex. Skinner developed an experimental technique called a “skinner box” and was able to demonstrate the learning ability of animals based upon consequences to their behavior.

His major contribution was his classification and use of reinforcements to modify behavior. Reinforcements can be either positive or negative (punishment) depending upon whether the behavior was increased or decreased. Also, each could be either positive or negative depending upon whether the reinforcement was added or taken away. He also measured the effectiveness of the reinforcement by dividing its application into fixed or variable ratios and fixed or variable intervals. His lesson for today’s parents is that the aversive nature of punishment makes it a poor tool for disciplining their children.

Dominant research methods As an empiricist school, Behaviorist could use any of the methods. In Skinner’s experimental research he used mice to perform various tasks and he would measure the effect (independent variable) of the reinforcement type (dependent variable) on the performance. Because much of the research was done on animals, case study and survey would not have been applicable.

Discussion of a study An experiment that would involve both classical and operant conditioning would be to test for avoidance learning. A mouse is placed in a two compartment box. At a given time a buzzer is sounded and a short time later it receives a shock from a device on the floor. After a few times when the buzzer is sounded it quickly moves to the other compartment to avoid the shock.

Psychological disorder treatment I believe that this school is very weak on its ability to treat for disorders. They have only one tool, learning principles, to make changes in dysfunctional behaviors. To extinguish the neurotic behavior they would use operant conditioning to associate a new healthy behavior through the use of an appropriate reinforcement.

Evaluation The contributions of Pavlov and Skinner to the understanding of learning were significant. Unfortunately, Watson and Skinner moved psychology down a blind path that took it quite a while to recover from. They simply ignored the fact that the study of the behavior has a metaphysical side.

Humanist School
Founders Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) and Carl Rogers (1902-1987) were the main proponents of this “third force” of psychology.

Human nature assumptions Humanist believe people are basically good and that their behavior is caused by their subjective reality. Maslow set out their two tenets: We are driven to actualization and; “self aware of self” develops with age. It is as if humans have a guidance system within them to drive them to self actualization.
Assumptions – philosophical They are nondetermanists and rationalists. They reject science as a method to explain human nature. Each human is free to choose their own direction.

Principal Theories Maslow set out his now famous hierarchy of needs where our highest goal is self actualization or reaching our full human potential.

Rogers’s theory on behavior was that many parents do not extend unconditional love and acceptance to their children, but rather withhold it until they act, think, or talk in certain ways. Because of the importance of love and acceptance, this creates behavior in the children that emphasizes these ways, which he refers to as conditions of worth. This gradually leads to incongruity between who the person really is and how they act and is manifested as a neurosis. Thus, a “good” little girl or boy may not be a happy or healthy little girl or boy.

Rogers see the psyche consisting of three entities: the person you actually are (true self), the person you would like to be (ideal self), and the person you think you are (self image). Neurosis or incongruity develops when there is a mismatch between any one of this three entities. The magnitude of the neurosis is directly proportional to the mismatch.

His theory on therapy, referred to as Rogerian therapy, was his most important contribution. Unlike the schools before him, he felt that the client was the one who was in the best position to know what was wrong with him, and be the one to find ways of improving. Unlike the medical profession, he felt the therapist is not there to inquire and diagnosis, but to work with the client as a partner to solve their issues.

Dominant research method Because of their nonscientific position, case study is the only research method available to this school.

Discussion of study Because of the School’s limited scope and nonscientific approach, studies could prove to be difficult. One study is to correlate the intensity of an individual’s neurosis with their personal incongruity. A sample of people that are currently in therapy because of emotional disorders would be questioned to determine the amount of incongruity. The results would be plotted to determine the amount of correlation. Because of the difficulty in obtaining good operational definitions for both of these variables, the findings would probably be questionable.

Psychological disorder treatment Disorders are brought about as a result of incongruity of the three entities of the psyche. Therapy would consist of determining where the incongruities were and working with the client to make them more congruent.

Evaluation While this school adds a piece to the clinical side of the psychology puzzle that had not been previously addressed, the spirit, it is limited in its application to reasonably normal clients. Rogers’s theory on client relationship, however, is important and could be applicable to all schools.

Cognitive School
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) Unlike the Behavorist school, they see learning as a biological process. George Miller, who wrote the paper on “The Magical Number Seven.”

Assumptions - human nature A child’s behavior becomes more complex as it grows older and develops a more mature cognitive structure. It does not progress at a constant rate, but grows in spurts. We can study cognitive functions by looking at computer processes because in some cases they are good models.
Assumptions – philosophical They are Rationalists

Principal Theories This school focuses on human perception, thought, and memory, with special emphasis on methods of learning. It appears to have borrowed some of the theory from the early development of digital computers and information theory. The computer theory of artificial intelligence brought into play the issue of how systems learn.

Piaget’s model of learning included a schema which is a mental structure that permits the classification and organization of information. As a child uses its existing schemas to experience the outside world, if the experience is a repeated one, it is assimilated into the child's cognitive structure so that he or she maintains mental "equilibrium." If the experience is different or new, the child loses equilibrium, and alters his or her cognitive structure to accommodate the new conditions. In this way, the child modifies existing or creates new cognitive structures. Thus, learning occurs either through assimilation or accommodation.

From Piaget’s investigation of children, he noted that there were periods where assimilation dominated, periods where accommodation dominated, and periods of relative equilibrium, and that these periods were similar among all the children he looked at in their nature and their timing. And so he developed the idea of four stages of cognitive development.

In 1968 Atkinson and Shiffrin developed a functional model of the levels of the human memory system including sensory memory, short term or working memory, and long term memory.

Dominant research methods Because of their Rationalist belief case study would be the main research tool.

Discussion of study The study would attempt to show the different stages of cognitive development that Piaget formulated in different age children. To do this we would ask the sample of children of different ages the same set of questions, record the answers, and classify the answers to see if the are consistent with the Piaget’s stages.

Psychological disorder treatment They would focus on client’s unclear or irrational thinking that has resulted in dysfunctional behavior. Point out why the thinking to incorrect and recommend alternative ideas or thoughts.

Evaluation They have made a small but valuable contribution to learning and specifically education. With the use of computers as tools, the future of education may be based upon cognitive learning.

Biological School
Founders This field is too modern to have someone given credit for being its founder. However, early work was done by Karl Lashley (1890- 1958), a coworker of John Watson. He developed two theories about the workings of the brain. One of his students, Donald Hebb (1905-1984) did work on cell assemblies and phase sequences that lead to the understanding of neural networks.

Assumptions - human nature Psychobiology studies how biology impacts human behavior and mental processes. They believe that behavior results from biological processes of the nervous system and genetics.
Assumptions - philosophical They are empiricists and determinists

Principal Theories From studies in this field we currently know a great deal of the physiology of the human nervous system. An important aspect that has been studied is the communication of information along the neurons the nervous system. This is important because transmission problems have a negative effect the emotions of the person. Within the neuron transmission is electrical. The process is called the Action Potential. Between neurons the transmission is chemical and occurs as neurotransmitters move across the synapse from the sending neuron to the receiving neuron.

Three areas that were covered in class were: pharmacological applications to control neurosis, basic research to better understand the physiological impact of using illicit drugs, and basic research to better determine the effect individual neurotransmitters have on our nervous system.

Dominant research methods Since it is purely science based, experiments would be the best method of deriving information. For ethical reasons most experiments are carried out on animals.

Discussion of study One or both of the variables of the experiment could be biologically based. The sample would be divided randomly into groups, including a control group. A drug(s) and a placobo would be administered to each group and its impact on the nervous system of the organism under study would be measured. Linear regression test would be run to determine what, if any, correlation is present.

Psychological disorder treatment They would treat a disorder pharmacologically with a medication that would have the required impact on the specific behavioral disorder. An example medication would be a selective serotonin reuptake inhibiter, or SSRI, to treat depression.

Evaluation Treatment from this school can have miraculous results where no other treatment is available. However, it builds an emotional dependency unless patient works to discover the underlying reason for the neurosis.

Sociological School
Founders Derald Wing Sue was an early pioneer. Two of his books are the most frequently cited works in the field. John Berry has written on multiculturalism and, Dr. Janet Helms was a pioneer in minority identity development research.

Assumptions - human nature The cultural background of your family and friends is a very important determining factor in your behavior.
Assumptions - Philosophical As a therapy based school, it is Rationalist in its outlook

Principal Theories This movement was started in the 1960s and mirrors the zeitgeist of the period. It applies the idea that behavior must be judged within the framework of the culture, age, gender and other specific social traits of the client. It applies a theory used in anthropology and sociology, called cultural relativism, to the practice of psychology.

Dominant research methods Case study will be the best research tool, although surveys and archival research could be useful because of the large amount of data that is culturally based.

Discussion of study Develop a survey to gather data about the effect of a particular common social event such as a wedding has on various ethnic groups. The purpose is to evaluate the variations or differences between the groups on all aspects of the wedding.

Psychological disorder treatment The therapist would try to determine the ethnic and other cultural differences that are common to the client’s family and friends before determining how to treat the presenting problem. What may be dysfunctional in one group might be normal in another. After applying cultural relativism, they use the theories of other schools to address the presenting problem.

Evaluation Excellent addition for the clinically oriented psychologists that will allow them to provide more relevant treatment for their minority clients.
Resources: B. R. Hergenhahn, "An introduction to the History of Psychology" and Dennis Coon, "Introduction to Psychology"

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mission Impossible – IQ as a meaningful measure

A generally accepted definition of intellligence is “the global capacity to act purposefully, to think rationaly, and to deal effectively with the environment.” However, if we want to objectively evaluate the intelligence of a human it becomes difficult because there is no operational definition for intellligence. Psychologists solve that problem today by using the score achieved on one of two tests – the Stanford Binet or the Wechsler, as the operational definition. However, insistence upon using such a figure presents both psychometric and sociological problems.

I will tackle the psychometric problem first. If we look at the problem of measuring the capability or output of even simply objects the task is daunting. The biggest difficulty is coming up with only one measurement that is a reasonable and fair representation. As a result, attempting to measure the capability or intelligence of the human brain is probably an impossible task. Let me attempt to explain this rather emphatic statement by looking at a few nonhuman examples.

A light bulb is a very simple device. Using wattage, or the power it consumes, is a very good representation of its light output. However, if the object gets more complex we run into problems. If we look at the receiver in today’s home theater there are several measurements that are important to its performance – power, digital decoding and processing (dolby, THX), and connectivity (devices, optical, digital). None is sufficient to evaluate its performance. Finally, if we look at a computer, which is closer to the task of human measurement, we are faced with even a bigger problem. For like humans it is multilayered with both hardware and software. Potential hardware measurements are: cpu speed, bus speed, memory size, and connectivity capabilities, while software measurements are operating system, and appication programs. None gives us a true and accurate picture of the capability of the computer, evaluation requires at least these measurements and maybe more.

With these examples in mind we can look at the challenge of measuring human output or intelligence. Like the computer we are multilayered. We have a genetic component, our brain, and a cultural component which in itself is multilayered. The cultural component consists of language and our experiences. To date we have not even been able to evaluate the proportion each contributes to a human let alone a measure of their of their capability. Thus, given our complexity a single number representing our mental capacity isn’t currently possible.

Even the consideration of future capabilities present problems. What if we had a probe that could be placed within the brain to measure IQ. Where would be put it? The problem becomes similar to that of measuring the computer. Our physical thought process is so complex that measurement of its capabiltiy becomes impossible.

The sociological problems have to do with the label that such a measurement produces. An IQ score that is below or substantially below average could have a detrimental effect upon an individual and to the extent that IQ shows a cultural bias, could have an impact upon large groups of people. Childen who are slower at mental maturity are at a disadvantage. In fact, the State of California has prohibited the use of IQ tests in the placement of certain students.

If a single figure is problematic that could mean that we have more than one “intelligence” and multiple measurements are necessary. Gardner has suggested that there might be multiple intelligences. This seems like a much better theory, however, the exact number may be difficult to determine.

Notwithstanding this there are good reasons to have some measure of a persons specific capabilities. Such tests are referred to as attitude tests. These tests can successfully predict a person’s ability to acquire a set of specific motor or intellectual skills, though future education. They perform a useful function in both business and academia. Their validity can be checked with statistical analysis thus reducing or eliminating any sociological problems.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What is true?

“…To say of what is that it is, or of what is not that it is not, is true.” Aristotle

What is true? The answer is quite straightforward. True is a property of any statement referred to as a proposition or assertive phrase. All such statements have the property of either true or false. This property is not relative, but absolute. If a statement is true, it is true for everyone.

The more difficult question is what does it mean to say something is true? Philosophers have struggled with this question for at least five hundred years without coming up with a universally accepted answer. When you add the extra factors of language and its usage and understanding the problem becomes even more difficult. Bertrand Russell spent a lifetime wrestling with this problem and never solved it. I will spend what seems like a lifetime, but will only be fifteen minutes or so.

A brief philosophical answer. Initially philosophers argued that true statements have a correspondence with reality. That is, a matching up between the statement and beliefs and reality. However, this did not stand up to close scrutiny.

Another way to approach the problem is to categorize statements relative to the truth property. The first type is referred to as necessary. They are statements that are true on their face, ie. a priori. An example would be “All triangles have three sides.” The second type is contingent, based upon experience, or a posteriori statement. Their truth is dependent upon empirical data. An example would be “This triangle is blue.”

There are several modern philosophical theories of truth. The coherence theory argues that a statement is true if and only if it is consistent and fits in (coheres) with generally accepted beliefs. Truth is measured in terms of its consistency with other truths. A second theory is the pragmatic theory. It argues that a statement is true if its use is expedient, if using it leads to successful consequences, ie. if it is pragmatic. Truth is measured in terms of its practical utility.

What true isn’t! How is it misused?

Reality or perception is not subject to being true or false. Everyone’s reality is different because it is created by one’s senses gathering secondary qualitites. Galileo has told us that they are subjective.

Religion and religions concepts are not subject to be true or false. Religion is based upon faith, not science. It consists of nonfalsifiable beliefs.

The opposite of true is false, not a lie. This is not about “speaking the truth.”