The History And Background Of Psychology Psychology Essay

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Most psychologists accept that it is important to observe and measure behaviour, but is too limiting to regard psychology simply as a study of behaviour. The main interest of psychologists is usually in trying to understand why people behave in certain ways. Therefore, many psychologists consider internal processes and motives.

There are many different approaches that psychologists adopt in an attempt to understand human behaviour. (Eysenck, 2000)

Psychology is concerned with theories. A theory provides a general explanation of certain findings or data. It can be an idea or set of ideas that can explain how things work and to make predictions on why or how things happen. (Eysenck, 2000)

Some early theories include the 'original sin', where the theory is that everyone is born evil and an effective child upbringing will rid a person from the evil. Another theory would be that of the 'tabula rasa' meaning that a person is born with a blank slate and no influences where future experiences make an individual the way they are. Another early theory would be the 'innate goodness' where everyone is born with an inclination to be 'good' and to grow up that way.


The understanding of more modern days would be that of a stage theory where psychologist believe events in development happen within certain life stages where development then builds on the previous stage, and therefore emphasise change more than stability. In direct opposition some theorists take an open-ended perspective where development happens gradually and is not restricted to time frames and therefore adopt a view where development is a stable, continuous process. The continuous theory regards development is also gradual and builds on previous skills, but is not necessarily linked to a specific stage and therefore happens when it happens. However, some theorists have a different view on this and believe that a person jumps directly from one skill to another, much like a child walking, then all of a sudden can run. This theory is known as the discontinuous theory. Another set of theories is known as the static theory where it is believed that development happens in incremental steps, where one thing follows another in one direction. Opposing views would be that of the dynamic approach where it is believed that input from outside influences such as other people and environments where there is not just one way to develop. (Eysenck, 2000)

However, different they may be in other aspects, most personality theories share a basic assumption that personality is something that belongs to an individual. Personality theorists differ with respect to whether they're trying to compare individuals in terms of a specified number of traits common to everyone. Therefore, everyone has the same qualities but certain individuals have more or less of a quality. This approach is known as the nomothetic theory. The opposite side to this approach would be the idiographic theory. This theory believes that each person has unique characteristics and qualities, meaning that individuals cannot be compared.

2.1 Psychodynamic Approach

The psychodynamic approach is a systematic study of the psychological forces that lie within human behaviour, it focuses mainly on trying to reach inside the mind of an individual to try and make sense of thoughts. It focuses mainly on trying to reach inside the mid of thoughts, relationships and how a person sees the world. The approach includes theories that see humans functioning based on the interactions of innate drives and forces within an individual, particularly unconscious. The theory contains two main aspects, a set of emotional development and is a form of treatment based on these theoretical ideas. (Eysenck, 2000)

Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis was the first psychodynamic theorist; he investigated and documented the implications of a person's actions in childhood as being explanations for behaviour in adult lives. His interests mainly lie in the understanding of how influential the mind could be in forming the personality and behaviour of an individual. (Gross, 2010)

One of Freud's concepts was the belief that behaviour is governed by both conscious and unconscious processes. The most basic of these processes is an internal drive for physical pleasure, also known as the libido. He believed this to be the motivating force behind behaviour. Freud also suggested that personality has three parts. The id that contains the libido operates at an unconscious level, the id being a basic sexual and aggressive impulse which is present at birth. The ego, that operates in the conscious and is the thinking part of the personality, develops in the first two to three years of life. The ego keeps the needs of the id satisfied. The superego acts as the moral judge, contains the rules of society and develops near the end of early childhood, at around six years of age. Once the superego has developed, the ego's job becomes more complex. It must satisfy the id without violating the superego.

The ego becomes responsible for keeping these three components of the personality in balance (Bee, 2003).

According to Freud, if a person was to feel tension it is due to conflicts occurring in any of these three components. For example, if the id were to become too strong then impulses and self gratification could overtake a person's life, whereas if the superego were to become too strong then rigid morals would drive a person's life, by being judgemental of others. In such cases, the ego may generate defence mechanisms; these are ways of thinking about a situation that reduce anxiety. (Appendix one)

Without defence mechanisms, Freud suggested the degree of tension within the personality would become intolerable, resulting in a possible case of mental health illness or suicide.

Freud proposed a series of psychosexual stages through which a child progresses through a fixed sequence determined by maturation. (Appendix two)

In each of these stages the libido is centred on a different part of the body. Freud stated that for a child to reach optimum development the child needs an environment that would satisfy the unique needs of each stage. An inadequate early environment would result in a fixation, characterised by behaviours that reflect unresolved problems and unmet needs (Bee, 2003). The table shown in appendix two shows Freud's different stages of development. The most important stages within Freud's theory are the first three, the oral, anal and phallic stages.

2.1.1 Oral Stage

The oral stage is focussed on children between birth and one year. During this first stage the focus of attention is on the mouth, this is shown on the infant's pleasure in nursing. At first gratification is met from sucking and swallowing, known as oral incorporation. Later during this stage this is replaced by chewing and biting, known as oral aggression. Fixations in this stage could manifest in the form of smoking and overeating.

2.1.2 Anal Stage

The anal stage commences at around one year to three years where Freud suggested that pleasure is sought in the child controlling their bowels during toilet training. It is here where the libido is focused on the anus. It is suggested that the parents love is no longer unconditional but is dependent upon the child's actions.

2.1.3 Phallic Stage

The phallic stage sees the libido focused around the genital area, and commences around three to six years. This is the most controversial idea of Freud's, where he suggested that children in this stage experience sexual attractions towards the opposite sex parent Freud adopted names from Greek literature, Oedipus, a male character who was involved in a romantic relationship with his mother, and, Electra, a female character who had a similar relationship with her father. During this stage would see boys experiencing a desire to posses their mothers and often fantasise about killing their fathers. These feelings Freud named as the Oedipus complex. In Freud's view, the boy responds to the anxiety generated by these conflicting feelings with a defence mechanism called identification. The boy would therefore match his own behaviour to that of this father.

A similar process happens in girls. Freud named this the Electra complex where a girl experiences the same kind of attraction to her father. The girl would see her as a rival for her father's attention and experience fear of the mother. The resolve would be by identifying with the same sex partner.

Freud incorporated other stages of development that included the Latency and Genital Stages. The latency stage commencing around six years to 12 years sees the defence mechanisms developing and the child identifying with same sex friends. Freud thought that this period is not really a psychosexual stage as the libido is not focused on the body. The final stage, the genital period commences in children twelve years and above, this stage sees the child having interests in others and maturing sexually, if all other stages have been successfully completed (Bee, 2003).

2.2 Critically Thinking

There is a lack of information surrounding Freud's theory of psychosexual development. Evidence is only apparent twenty or thirty years afterwards and only distorted and limited information about an individual's experiences when being fed or toilet trained is obtained. The main evidence for the theory consists of correlations between certain childhood experiences and type of adult personality. Correlations therefore cannot prove causes, and cannot show that an adult's personality or development has been caused by childhood experiences.

Freud never carried out any experiments to test his ideas. He solely relied on the observations of his own patients. This approach is problematic as these observations were made in an unsystematic and biased way, and cannot be regarded as convincing evidence. Freud's approach also involved a very non-representative sample of the population. Most of Freud's patients were middle-class women from Vienna in the 1890's and 1900's; human behaviour based on such a sample is likely to be very limited. (Eysenck, 2000) (Appendix three)

2.3 Psychosocial Approach

Apart from Freud, Erik Erikson (1959), a psychoanalytic theorist has had the greatest influence on the study of development. Erikson suggested that development results from the interaction between internal drives and cultural demands. His theory refers to psychosocial stages rather that psychosexual ones. Erikson also thought development continued through the entire lifespan as opposed to Freud who thought development ceased at adolescence.

In order to achieve a healthy personality, Erikson said an individual must successfully resolve a crisis at each of the eight stages of development (Bee, 2003). (Appendix four)

Erikson's theory of psychosocial development resembled that of Freud's theory of psychosexual development in some ways, but its emphasis was much more on the role of social factors and on the development of the ego.

Erikson stated that everyone goes through the eight stages of development in the same order, but people can vary enormously in terms of how successfully they cope with each stage. Each stage has possible positive and negative outcomes associated with it. Children who have a negative outcome would have to deal with their unresolved crisis in later life (Eysenck, 2000).

Each crisis is defined by a pair of opposing possibilities, such as trust versus mistrust or integrity versus despair. Erikson believed that the behaviour of a major caregiver (usually the mother) is critical to the child's resolution of the first life crisis; trust versus mistrust. For example, the caregiver must be consistently loving and must respond to the child predictably and reliably to ensure successful resolution of this crisis. However, if the infant's early care has been erratic and harsh they could develop mistrust. Either outcome the child carries this aspect throughout their development, or it affects the resolution of later tasks.

The fifth stage of identity versus role confusion has been particularly influential. Erikson argued that, in order to arrive at a mature sexual and occupational identity, each adolescent must examine his identity and the roles they occupy. The child must achieve an integrated sense of self, of what they want to do and be. The risk is that the child will suffer from confusion arising from the profusion of roles.

Erikson relied heavily on clinical evidence to provide support for his theory. Although such evidence can indicate a theory is on the right lines, it is generally too imprecise to confirm the details of a theory. However, there is some experimental evidence providing support for aspects of his theory. Erikson argued that trust was a positive outcome of stage one and mistrust was a negative. The work of Mary Ainsworth on the attachment behaviour is relevant. Ainsworth and Bell (1970) identified three forms of attachment of an infant to its mother. Secure attachment, which is the most useful for the infant's psychological development and involves a high level of trust. The less desirable resistant attachment and avoidant attachment both involve mistrust and anxiety (Gross, 2010).

Erikson's psychosocial theory does posses significant strengths. Its focuses on social processes and the development of the ego greatly enlarged the scope of the psychodynamic theory. Also that child faces a series of conflicts with consequences for their sense of self depending on how well these conflicts are resolved. Erikson also seemed to be correct about most conflicts in infants lie within the family, whereas conflicts later in development (i.e. stage four) spread out to include school and friends.

2.3.1 Critically Thinking

According to Miller (1993, pg172), there are limitations to the theory:

"Erikson's theory does not explain in any detail how a child moves from stage to stage or even how he resolves the crisis within a stage. It states what influences the movement (for example, physical maturation, parents, cultural beliefs, to what extent earlier crises were resolved), but not specifically how the movement comes about".

Most of Erikson's theory is hard to test because most of the evidence is correlation and as with any stage of the development a conflict for example between trust and mistrust is said to be central only to the first stage of development, but it could be argued that this conflict keeps reoccurring through most people's lives (Eysenck, 2000).

The psychoanalytic theories such as Freud's and Erikson's do have several aspects. They highlight the importance of early relationships between the child and the caregiver. They both agree that a child's needs change with age. Strength of the theory is the emphasis on continued development during adulthood found in Erikson's theory (Bee, 2003). (Appendix five)

2.4 Behaviourism

John Watson (1913) a psychologist offered ideas about child development which were very different to those of Freud and Erikson. He coined a new term, behaviourism. Behaviourism refers to development in terms of behavioural changes caused by environmental influences. Watson believed that through manipulation of the environment children could be trained to do or be anything (Gross, 2010).

According to Watson:

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select - doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief and yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors." (Watson, 1930 p. 104)

Watson was greatly influenced by the work of Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) on classical conditioning of dogs. He found that dogs salivated when food is put in their mouths, and Pavlov found that the dogs could be trained to salivate to a neutral stimulus such as a tone. This association between the tone and salivation is known as a conditioned reflex, and it illustrates classical conditioning. Pavlov focused on observable stimuli and responses and his work suggested that learning involves the formation of an association between a stimulus and a response. Watson assumed that most learning was of this type (Eysenck, 2000).

With this in mind Watson conducted an experiment to support his theory of development. Watson conditioned a baby boy to fear white rats; this experiment was known as the 'Little Albert' experiment. As Albert played with a rat, Watson made banging sounds that frightened him. Over time, Albert began to associate the rat with noises. He cried whenever the rat was present. Based on this experiment Watson claimed that all development changes were the result of learning (Bee, 2003).

B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) was the most influential behaviourist. He claimed that all development is under the control of reward or reinforcement. He assumed that all responses that are followed by a reward would increase in frequency (positive reinforcement), whilst those responses not followed by a reward would decrease in frequency (negative reinforcement). This is known as operant conditioning (Eysenck, 2000).

The best known experiment of operant conditioning was that of the Skinner box. Skinner placed a hungry rat in a small box containing a lever. Whenever the rat pressed the lever, the food would appear. The rat slowly learned that food could be obtained by pressing the lever. This would be an example of the law of reinforcement (Gross, 2010).

Learning theorist Albert Bandura, whose ideas are more influential among developmental psychologists that those of conditioning theorists, argues that learning does not always require reinforcement. He assumed that leaning could occur as a result of watching someone else's action and experience reinforcement or punishment. This is known as observational learning, or modelling. Bandura also calls to attention a class of reinforcements called intrinsic reinforcements. These are reinforcements within an individual, such as a feeling a child has when they learn something new (Bell, 2003).

Bandura showed observational learning in young children where he let them watch a film where an adult behaved aggressively or non-aggressively towards a large inflated clown known as a bobo doll. After they had watched the film, the children were allowed to play with the doll. Those who had witnessed aggressive behaviour towards the doll were more likely to treat it aggressively themselves. Bandura argued that the entire operant conditioning approach was very limited (Gross, 2010)

According to Bandura (Bandura, 1977 p.12):

"Psychological theories have traditionally assumed that learning can occur only by performing responses and experiencing their effects. In actuality, virtually all learning phenomena resulting from direct experience occur on a vicarious [second=hand] basis by observing other people's behaviour and its consequences for them".

Bandura has gone a long way toward bridging the gap between learning theories and other approaches by emphasising cognitive (mental) elements in learning. He also suggested that an observer learns from a particular model is influenced by their own goals and expectations about what kinds of consequences are likely if they adopt the model's behaviour, and judgement of his own performance.

2.4.1 Critically Thinking

The table in appendix six shows a summary of the learning theories. Learning theories can explain both consistency and change. Strength of learning theories is that they give an accurate picture of the way in which much behaviour is learned. However, the learning theorists is not really developmental, it does not make statements with regards to changes in age, either in childhood or in adulthood. Therefore, learning theories help developmetalists understand how behaviours are acquired but does not contribute an understanding of age-related change (Bee, 2003).

2.5 Cognitive Development

Cognitive psychology focuses on the way human's process information, looking at how an individual treats the information that is brought into them, also known as stimuli and how this treatment leads to responses. They are interested in the variables that mediate between stimulus/input and responses/output. Cognitive psychologists study internal processes including perception, attention, language, memory and thinking (Gross, 2010).

The first theory of cognitive development was Jean Piaget (1896-1980). He was interested in how children learned and adapted to the world. Piaget believed that for adaptation or adjustment to occur there must be constant interactions between a child and the outside world. According to Piaget, two processes are of extreme importance:

Accommodation - where an individual's cognitive organisation is altered by the need to deal with the environment.

Assimilation - where the individual deals with new environmental situations on the basis of their existing cognitive organisation

Equilibration - process of balancing assimilation and accommodation to create schemes that fit the environment

Piaget believed that there are four major stages of cognitive development. (Appendix seven)

2.5.1 Sensori Motor Stage (0-2yrs)

The infant in this stage learns by moving around initially a baby's schema (organised knowledge used to guide actions) consists of inborn reflexes such as sucking. These reflexes change with experience, such as altering the shape of their lips to aid in a more effective sucking motion. The achievement of this stage is object permanence. This is where a child is aware that objects continue to exist when they are no longer in view. In the early part of this stage a child has now awareness of object permanence an object is therefore 'out of sight, out of mind'. Towards the end of this stage a child starts to display preservative search. This involves the child searching for a concealed object in the same place it was last seen. Towards the end of the sensori-motor stage a child shows evidence of deferred imitation, this is the ability to imitate behaviour that was seen before.

Piaget identified many of the main kinds of learning shown by infants during the first two years. He underestimated the abilities of infants in a number of ways. An example would be from Bower (1982) where he hid a toy behind a screen. When the screen was lifted a few seconds later, the toy was no longer there. The infants who were three or four months old showed surprise. This would suggest that some aspects of the object permanence is present much earlier that was claimed by Piaget. Some of Piaget's explanations have not been supported, he assumed that infants showing preservative search did not remember where the toy had been hidden. Another problem with Piaget's explanation of preservative search, he argues that search occurs because a young child believes that an object's existence depends on their own actions. It follows from children who only passively observed the object in its first location should now show preservative search. When in fact, infants show as much preservative search under those conditions as when they have been allowed to find the object in its first location (Eysenck, 2000).

2.5.2 Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 yrs)

The second stage of Piaget's theory is the preoperational stage. Piaget stated that when a child completes the sensori-motor stage is still not capable of 'true' thought. A preoperational child becomes more capable of symbolic functioning. Children show considerable development during the five years of this stage. Piaget divided the preoperational stage into tow sub stages, the pre conceptual (2 to 4 yrs) and the intuitive (4 to 7 yrs). Two of the cognitive differences between these sub stages involve seriation and syncretic thought. Seriation tasks require children to arrange objects in order on the basis of a single feature. Piaget found that pre conceptual children found this hard to do. Syncretic thought is revealed on tasks where children are asked to select objects that are all alike. Syncretic though occurs because young children focus on tow objects at a time, and find it hard to consider the characteristics of several objects at the same time. The thinking of pre operational children is characterised by egocentrism. This is the tendency to assume that one's way of thinking about thins is the only way. Piaget studied this by using the three mountains task. This is where children looked at a model of mountains, and then decided which picture showed the view that would be seen by someone looking at the mountain from a different angle. It found that children under the age of eight always selected the scene that they themselves saw. According to Piaget this error occurred because of their inability to escape from an egocentric perspective (Bee, 2003).

2.5.3 Critically Thinking

The research based on cognitive theories, especially the work of Piaget, has demonstrated that simplistic views, such as those of the conditioning theorists, cannot explain the development of the complex logical thinking. Piaget's research findings have been replicated in virtually every culture of children since his work begun. Not only did he formulate a theory that forced psychologists to think about child development in a new way, he also provided a set of findings that were impossible to ignore and difficult to explain. He developed innovative methods of studying children's thinking that continue to e important today.

Researchers have found that Piaget's theory about some of the ages at which a child develops have turned out to be wrong. They found that some children develop some intellectual skills at earlier ages that Piaget's findings suggested. It has also been found that Piaget was wrong about the generality of the stages themselves. For example, most eight year olds show concrete operational thinking on some tasks but not on others, and are more likely to show complex thinking on familiar that on unfamiliar tasks. Therefore, stage concept may cause adults to underestimate children's reasoning abilities, and could be argued that there may be additional stages in adulthood (Bee,2003).

2.6 Humanistic Approach

Humanism is often known as the 'third force' in psychology, with the psychodynamic and behaviourist approaches being the other two forces. It was first developed in the United States in the 1950's (Eysenck, 2000). The approach was developed mainly by Carol Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Humanistic psychologists focus on personal responsibility, free will, and the individual's striving towards personal growth and fulfilment. Of particular importance to humanistic psychologists is the strongly favoured reliance on phenomenology, which involves reporting pure experience with no attempt to interpret it (Eysenck, 2000).

Humanistic theories begin with the optimistic assumption that the most important internal drive is each individual's motivation to achieve his full potential. The key figure in this approach is Maslow, who used the term self-actualisation to describe this ultimate goal of human life.

Maslow's greatest interest was in the development of motives, or needs, which he divided into two areas:

Deficiency motives - involves drives to maintain physical or emotional homeostasis (inner balance), such as the drive to get enough to eat or drink, the sexual drive, or even the drive to obtain sufficient love or respect from others.

Being motives - involves the desire to understand, to give to others, and to grow, to achieve self actualisation.

Maslow described these various needs or motives in his famous needs hierarchy, shown in appendix eight.

Maslow argued that each of the various needs must be met in order from the bottom to the top. Only when physiological needs are met does safety needs come to the fore. Maslow thought that being motives were likely to be significant in adulthood, and only in those individuals who had found stable ways to satisfy both love and esteem needs (Bee, 2003).

Another humanistic psychologist, Carl Rogers, talked about the capacity of each individual to become a 'fully functioning person,' without guilt or seriously distorting defences (Rogers, 1961).

He assumed that the concept of 'self' is of great importance to an understanding of personality. An individual's self-concept is mainly conscious. It consists of thoughts and feelings about oneself as an individual and in relation to others.

According to Rogers (1951):

"There is an important distinction between the self-concept and the ideal self. The self-concept is the self as it is currently experienced, whereas the ideal self is the self-concept that an individual would most like to have. Happy people tend to have a much smaller hap between their self-concept and their ideal self than do those who are unhappy".

A way of assessing the self-concept and the ideal self is to use the Q-sort method:

An individual is presented with a pile of cards, each containing a personal statement (e.g "I am a friendly person";"I am tense most of the time").

The individual decides which statement best describes them, which statement are the next best, and so on.

The same procedure is followed with respect to the ideal self.

The experimenter works out the size of the gap between the statements selected as descriptive of the self-concept and the ideal self.

There are problems with using the Q-sort method or anything similar. Such methods cannot shed any light on those aspects of the self about which there is no conscious awareness. Also there are obvious possibilities of deliberate distortion (Eysenck, 2000).

Humanisms rejects scientific methodology like experiments and typically uses qualitative research methods such as diary accounts, open-ended questionnaires, unstructured interviews and unstructured observations. This type of research is useful studies at an individual level, and to find out, in depth, the ways in which people think (McLeod, 2007)

2.6.1 Critically Thinking

The humanistic approach has made several contributions to psychology. They have addressed issues of fundamental importance to humans. They have focused on the self-concept, on motivating forces, and attempts to realise an individual's potential. The humanistic approach has also provided a more comprehensive account of human motivation than that of other approaches. There are millions of individuals who feel depressed and unfulfilled in spite of having all basic needs met, this suggests the importance of growth needs.

Humanistic psychology has forced many of the psychologists to question some of their basic beliefs, as they differ from most other psychologists in focusing on conscious experience rather than on behaviour, on free will rather than on determinism, and on discussion of experience rather than on use of the experimental method.

In spite of the various contributions made by humanistic psychologists, there are criticisms surrounding the theory. Phenomenology is concerned only with those thoughts of conscious awareness. This results in all the important processes going on below the level of conscious awareness being ignored. The reliance on an individual's conscious experiences if that their report of these experiences may be distorted (e.g. to create a good impression).

The assumption that everyone is born with the potential to become a self-actualiser provided their basic needs are met is dubious. The fact that a small percentage of people are self-actualised does not show that everyone could be. The notion that self-actualised people are creative, self-accepting, and have excellent interpersonal relations ignores the fact that many people possess only some of those characteristics. An example of this would be Van Gough; he was creative, but also lacked self acceptance resulting in suicide. There are numerous example of this type of individual and questions arise whether or not they are self-actualised (Gross, 2010).

2.7 Evaluation of Theories

Develop mentalists compare theories with respect to their usefulness. There is a fair amount of disagreement among psychologists on how useful each theory is. For example, Freud's theory is that many of his claims are difficult to test. In contrast to this Piaget claimed that most children can solve concrete operational problems by the age of seven, he made an assertion that is easily tested. Therefore, Piaget's theory is viewed by many as more useful in this sense than Freud. Another criterion when judging the usefulness is its heuristic value, Freud's and Piaget's theories earn equally high marks, as they are both responsible for a huge amount of theorising and research on human development, often by psychologists who disagree with them. No matter how many testable hypotheses or practical techniques a theory produces, it does not explain the basic facts of development. Learning theories, especially classical and operant conditioning are regarded by many as somewhat less useful than other perspectives. Although they explain how specific behaviours are learned, they do not account for the complexity of human development (Bee, 2003).

There is no theory that is wrong or right when assessing human development, many theorists today would argue that there is truth in every theory, that there is a mixture of both innate drives and influences of the environment that help in moulding an individual into a healthy adult.


Human behaviour refers to the range of behaviours exhibited by humans that can be influenced by social and biological factors. Behaviour is experienced throughout an individual's entire lifetime. It includes the way they act based on different factors.

3.1 Biological Factors

Human behaviour can be affected in different ways one of these ways is by genetics. Everyone has different traits including intelligence, shyness, hair colour and eye colour which they inherit through heredity. In each generation of people there will be similar behaviours that occur.

3.2 Social Factors

As well as being influenced by our own psychological makeup, behaviour can be influenced by social context.

Commitment, especially commitments that are monitored by others can have a strong bearing on behaviour. For example when a person promises to commit to something in the presence of others they are more likely to carry it without reward or punishment.

Whether people listen to information depends on who is doing the talking. Peers, such as friends and family can be effective 'messengers', as they tend to be people we respect and trust.

3.3 Case Study Relating to Social and Biological Factors

A patient currently residing at a residential care home is an example of how both biological and social factors can affect an individual's behaviour. Appendix nine shows a patient profile outlining the main problems that surround the patient.

The patient had previously been in a demanding role within the company he was employed by. Whilst having an informal discussion with the patient (full details of the discussion are shown in appendix ten) he stated that the expectations for him to perform were at times unbearable. He often found himself taking work home with him and was working on many occasions until late into the night. He found that drinking alcohol at first eased the stresses of work. He also self-medicated in the form of alcohol to try and alleviate the social exclusion he experienced from his friends and family. Due to the long hours at work he found that he did not have spare time to socialise with friends or family, resulting in him eventually being excluded from his circle of friends. His relationship with his family started to diminish soon after marrying his child hood sweetheart. His family did not approve of the relationship as she had originated from a poorer area than them. He was constantly under pressure from his family to finish the relationship or lose contact with his whole family. This ended in him living with his wife and having no contact with any family members.

He stated that he did attend numerous GP appointments who prescribed him different medication, including anti-depressants and referred him to cognitive behavioural therapy. At first he was committed to trying to change his behaviour by taking the medication and attending therapy sessions and reducing his alcohol intake in an attempt to try and save his already failing marriage. After a while he started to drink more regularly and eventually ceased taking the medication and ended the therapy sessions.

Eventually, the constant consumption of alcohol started to affect his every day behaviour both at home and at work, resulting in him being dismissed from work and the eventual breakdown of his marriage.

After further visits to the GP he was advised to stop his excessive alcohol consumption as it was seriously affecting his liver. He was advised to attend alcoholics anonymous, which he never attended. He carried on with his drinking and was eventually admitted into hospital showing signs of serious liver failure. He was advised to cease consumption completely as he now required a liver transplant; he was added to the transplant list. He did not conform to this and carried on with the destructive lifestyle he was living, resulting in him being removed from the transplant list.

More recently he was admitted into hospital showing signs of severe liver failure, such as vomiting black toxins and showing signs of severe confusion, he was subsequently given approximately twelve months to live and referred to a 24hour residential care home where he will eventually receive palliative care.

During the discussion with the patient he revealed that his father and grandfather was a heavy drinker in the past, which may suggest that there could be a biological pattern emerging. The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) states that if a child of a drink dependent parent is four to nine times more likely to develop the same problem. Another study suggests that 95% of alcoholics had or have a close family member with a drink problem (Morrow, D, 2010).

3.4 Social Roles in Health & Social Care Settings

Humans adapt social roles within society; these are known as social norms and are described as an unwritten rule on how society must behave, and what majority of people believe about others and how they should act in a particular social group or culture. Having norms allows people to have an understanding of social influence in a general way. The types of groups that affect a person's social norm would range from friendships, family members, workplace and our national state. An individual's behaviour changes according to the group they are involved with, which allows norms to provide an order in society. Without social norms, it would be difficult for human society to function, humans need norms in order to guide and direct their behaviour.

Conformity is also a type of social influence; it can involve a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit into a certain group. Conformity can be defined as "Yielding to group pressures" (Crutchfield, 1955). Group pressures can take on different forms such as bullying, persuasion, teasing and criticism (McLeod, 2007).

Within social roles self-concept plays an important role, it is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about or perceives themselves. The self-concept is how we think about and evaluate ourselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself (McLeod, 2008).

An alternative view of self-concept is that of Charles Cooley he believed that our self-esteem is largely determined by other people's social judgements of us, and as we absorb and integrate their evaluations, their cumulative evaluations eventually become our own self-evaluations (Cooley, 1982). Cooley coined the term 'The Looking Glass Self', the main concepts of this theory are:

One images how they appear to others

One images the judgement that others may be making regarding that appearance

One develops a self-image via their reflection; that is, the judgements and critique of others (Morine, 2009)

3.4.1 How This Relates to Case Study

By observing the patient mentioned in section 3.3 a conclusion could be reached that he has not conformed to his expected social role within society, he clearly reacts and behaves differently around different people. An observation was made whilst the patient received a visit from his close friend. He was clearly relaxed, laughing and seemed to be happy around his friend, although was not willing to speak about his illness when prompted by the friend. He immediately changed the subject and refused to speak about his current situation, showing signs of denial. The patient also showed signs of denial within the informal discussion, he was unaware of why he was placed into care, yet clear from his case notes that he had been told on several occasions why he was in care. The patient expressed that there was nothing wrong with him and wanted to continue with his alcohol consumption. Whilst being in the company of his friend his behaviour was relaxed and clam, but an observation made later in the day between himself and a member of the nursing team showed a different behaviour. He seemed unwilling to talk with the nurse and showed signs of non-compliance in his mannerism he was sat up straight with his back slightly to the nurse and arms folded, he clearly was not comfortable with the discussion. When the nurse explained his medication he stated that there was nothing wrong with him, and would not be taking any medication. Whilst speaking to myself he showed similar signs to that of his mannerisms when speaking with his friend, he seemed relaxed and willing to talk. This clearly outlines that a person does adopt different behaviours around different people. His behaviour could also be linked to that of his father, as the patient aged he witnessed his father's behaviour and could have adopted similar behaviour himself. This would relate directly to that of the work of Bandura's work and the experiment with the bobo doll, as explained in section 3.

It would appear that the patient could have a role model in the form of his friend, the patient shows obvious changes in his behaviour when in his company, the patient shows signs of a norm, and how he should conform. His father could have previously been a role model, seeing his father self-destruct around him could have had an influence on how he perceived behaviour should be.

Also apparent from observations and discussions is the fact that the patient does not have a high regard for himself, believing that he has categorically failed as a human being. This may be due to the negative reactions he has received in his past, with family and work colleagues; this could have had an impact on how he eventually saw himself and started to conform to how he was perceived by others.

3.5 Coping with the situation

Different individuals deal with stresses of everyday life in a number of different ways; these are known as coping strategies. Coping skills are the thoughts, feelings, and actions that people implement when dealing with events and concerns of everyday life. Some individuals may be constructive when try to cope with a situation, focusing directly on solving the problem by looking at different approaches, others do not cope well with stresses and therefore worry and dwell on the concerns and may also try and ignore the situation (Frydenberg, 2012).

In the case of the patient he has opening expressed that he eventually reached a point in his work life where he could not cope with even the smallest of every day stresses, which eventually led him to seek solace in alcohol, which he stated made him feel less 'stressed' and was then able to carry on with every day activities.


The patient described previously had shown extreme stresses relating to work.

Research that has been commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive has indicated that:

Around half a million people in the UK experience work related stress to a level that is making them ill

Up to five million people in the UK feel 'very' or 'extremely' stressed by their work

Stress-related illness is responsible for the loss of 6.5 million working days each year

Costs society about £3.7 billion every year

Work related stressors can include, work overload, lack of control, poor working relationships, lack of job security and an unstable work-life balance (University of Cambridge, 2011)

Psychological methods in trying to manage stress can include various types of cognitive therapy. The aims are an emotionally focused technique and are used to replace irrational and negative thoughts with a more positive way of thinking about a problem. The assumption is that there is little a person can do about the objective situation, as stress is an inevitable consequence of life. What can be changed is the way that a situation is thought. Restructuring beliefs about a problem can make the problem disappear or become more manageable (Cox, 1991).


Addictions can have devastating effects on a person's thoughts, feelings and behaviour. They can disturb perceptions and attitudes and can significantly disrupt a person's personality. This is not just directly related to the substance they are addicted to such as, alcohol, nicotine and drugs it is also interferes with the natural chemical balance of the brain.

The amount of psychological disruption from an addiction can vary. How severely an individual is affected depends on their mental health before the addiction and the on-going circumstances of their lives. Alcohol is particularly damaging to the brain, it could therefore add to the long term psychological harm, this can be irreversible.

Many of the thought processes in addiction are defensive and designed to protect the addiction. Thoughts may include:

Believing others are responsible

Denying reality - convincing oneself and others that 'it's not that bad'

Obsessive - focus on getting enough of the substance

Behaviours can tend to reflect the consuming relationship with the drug of choice. Addicts often postpone a positive change and facing up to the reality. On many occasions, behaviour is simply down to avoiding the discomfort of the withdrawal. Some typical behaviour can include:

Avoiding - isolating yourself and not taking responsibility

Controlling - including various kinds of manipulation and even violence

Betrayal - anyone can be sacrificed because of the drug comes first

Self - harm - deliberate acts to hurt yourself for relief or punishment

Deceiving - self and others to keep ahead of the consequences (Marsden, 2013)

Freud's theory could be used to try and explain addiction, in the patient's situation it could be assumed that the id is the driving force in this instance and the patient indulged this craving resulting in the ego being unable to balance out the situation. Anxiety is a driving force in psychoanalytic view; addicts often abuse alcohol and other drugs to protect themselves from anxiety and painful emotions such as loneliness and depression. When the abuser uses substances to avoid such situations they never develop effective coping strategies (Thombs, 2006).

The patient mentioned has shown many of the common traits of addiction, such as denial and avoidance, it is apparent from the patient's history that he has used alcohol to protect himself from the stress and anxiety of his work load and to the stresses he experienced at home.


Psychological theories can provide evidence based explanations why an individual behaves, thinks and feel the way they do. Personality factors, history and early experiences and interpersonal relationships are seen as important factors in causing depression. However, there are many disagreements about the methods that are best to use for studying the matter. Consequently, different thoughts within psychology have developed their own theories as to why an individual becomes depressed.

The psychodynamic theory would suggest that the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind can come into conflict with one another, producing repression. Freud would suggest that previous developmental conflicts had not been successfully resolved, thus causing a mental illness, such as depression (Nemade, 2012)

However, according a behaviourist the human behaviour has nothing to do with internal unconscious conflicts. A behaviourist would suggest that depression is learned, and therefore can be unlearned. In the mid 1970's, Peter Lewisohn stated that depression is caused by a number of stressors within a person's environment and a lack of personal skills. The environmental stressors cause a person to receive a low rate of positive reinforcement. He went on to say that depressed people are precisely those people who do not know how to cope with the fact they no longer receive positive reinforcements like they have previously experienced (Reiss, 2012).

In the patients case of depression both of the psychodynamic and behaviouristic approach could be applied, a repressed memory or thought could be the cause, but also the patient could have experienced neglect as a child, and not received the attention required from his father due to his alcohol addiction, although this has not be proved so would remain an assumption.


In an attempt to try and assist individuals in a behaviour change to a more positive outlook on life, different strategies, models and settings are in place to help facilitate this.

7.1 Making a Change

There are many different ways in which a particular behaviour could be changed. In psychology different models have been implemented to help facilitate changes.

7.1.1 Health Belief Model

The health belief model was one of the first, and remains one of the best known social cognition models. The health belief model proposes that a person's health related behaviour depends on the perception of four areas:

The severity of an illness

The person's susceptibility to that illness

The benefits of taking a preventative action

The barriers to taking that action

This model is applied in nursing, especially in issues focusing on patient compliance and preventative health care practices.

The model can provide an understanding and prediction on how patients will behave in relation to their health and how they would comply with health care therapies.

As shown in appendix eleven, the health belief model consists of six major concepts:

Perceived Vulnerability - refers to a person's perception that a health problem is personally relevant or that a diagnosis of illness is accurate.

Perceived Severity - even when one recognises personal vulnerability, action will not occur unless the individual perceives the severity to be high enough to have serious organic or social complications.

Perceived Benefits - refers to the patient's belief that a given treatment will cure the illness or help prevent it.

Perceived Barriers - refers to a person's own evaluation of the barriers blocking the way to a behavioural change.

Belief in a Personal Health Threat - a person's judgement as to the severity of the illness.

Belief in the Effectiveness of Health Behaviour - a belief in the knowledge of a better health.

In addition to the perceptions and beliefs, the model suggests that behaviour is also influenced by cue to actions; these are events, people or things that move people to change their behaviour (McCormick, 1999).

Although this can be applied in most situations if an individual does not believe themselves to be vulnerable at the start of the proposed behaviour change then the model would therefore not be successful in an acceptable behaviour change.

7.1.2 Care Plans

Another way to adopt a behaviour change could be found in the form of care plans. These are an agreement between a client and a health professional to help manage a patients every day health, a care plan can cover the following:

The goals that are needed to work towards

Support services needed

Emergency contact numbers

Medicine details

Eating/Exercise plans (NHS, 2012)

Care plans can be an effect way of helping shape a behaviour change, and aids as a reference to track progress, and make changes to if necessary.


Different relationships within health care can occur between either between:

Service users/family and friends

Service users/care workers

Care workers/colleagues

Different psychological theories will suggest that as humans we will adopt friendships and relationships based upon individuals who are similar to ourselves, that like us and are in close proximity to ourselves, therefore different groups will automatically form between people in the same environment. This can help individuals with social aspects of life and help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

However, forming different circles of relationships can lead to some individuals being isolated if they do not wish to conform to a particular group of people. Therefore some relationships that are formed could be fragile despite all the good policies and practices that are available.


This report has outlined some of the major theories surrounding lifespan development and psychology and how these theories can be applied to health and social care. It has included evidence to support or discredit certain aspects and has outlined the different approaches that could be made when trying to implement behavioural changes.

It can be concluded that although over time there has been various theories surrounding development and behaviour with care strategies in place to try and lead an individual to live a productive and healthy lifestyle, it ultimately remains the individual needing care to be fully aware of their vulnerability and be willing to accept the help on offer. If the individual is unwilling to cooperate or denies there state of vulnerability then further education about their ailment with the person must be undertaken to be able to obtain cooperation and advance their care and support.