Everyone Loves Theories

Sorry for the long hiatus, I have been busy moving into a new university and starting my research project (more on that in later blogs). For now just know that I am doing research on mindfulness, stress, and religion. Again, more on that later!

Today, I would love to talk about… theories! Now at CC, they drill theories into our heads. I typically take six classes a semester and seven of them talk about theories. How? Great question, I have yet to figure it out myself.

Now a theory is a system of ideas intended to explain something. Theories also help people make sense of the world around them; they are something like ancient gods of old. I wanted to focus on a few psychological theories here: psychoanalytical/ psycho-dynamic theories, cognitive theory, and my personal favorite, learning/behavioral theories.

Now I think we should start with dear old Sigmund Freud. Now, he was a man who was hilarious, and yet, as I psych major I do need to pay him homage. He is known best for his psychoanalytic theory. He theorized that the person behaved a certain way because of the interaction between three key personality components. You know them as Id, Ego, and Superego. Id is the first of the three. This appears at birth. Id has two drives: life instincts and death instincts. Life is the basic emotional survival energy, and death, is, of course, the drive towards self-destruction, aggression, and yes, death. The Ego allows the Id to have what it wants without having the person die or get hurt. This, according to Freud, usually develops a few months after birth. The Superego ties them together by having the Ego give the Id what it desires without breaking any or at least not many social laws and taboos. More information can be found here: http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html

Freud is also known for his psycho-sexual stages of development. He had five stages. The first, the oral stage, was the first two years of life. An infant’s greatest pleasure was from feeding and sucking. The second, the anal stage, was from ages two to three (toilet training), the stage here urges for both retention and elimination. The phallic stage is from three to six when genitals first start to provide a sense of pleasure. (More on this stage in a few minutes). The fourth is called the latency period. Here six to twelve-year-olds stop focusing on sexual motivations and focus on developing skills. The last is the genital stage, where people have the greatest pleasure during sexual intercourse. That’s pretty much Freud.

Wait, I almost forgot. Freud believed that in the phallic stage, boys desire their mothers and girls have a deep desire for their fathers. He used the story of Oedipus as a source for this theory. In males, it is known as the Oedipus complex, and in females the Electra complex.  Yeah, how about no Freud. I never once “desired” my father, heck, to be honest, I can’t stand to be near him for longer than three or four minutes. But enough on that; Freud finally got me on penis envy. Freud noted that in the phallic stage girls have a moment of penis envy, where they want to be more like their fathers and brothers. Sadly, to some extend Freud was right. At some point, many girls and women wish to be more like their father and brothers, but not because of penis envy, I don’t want one, thanks, but because of how society treats men as people and women as objects. Yeah, of course, I want to be considered a person, who doesn’t? If Freud is correct and this starts in the phallic stage (ages three to six), it is a sad world we live in where girls that young know from the start that the world will always treat men better women. (Here’s an idea: let’s change that, okay? Okay!)

Okay, now let’s talk a little about this guy called Erik Erikson. I kid you not, that is his name. Didn’t he have wonderful parents? Erikson was a student of Freud’s; relax, he wasn’t as insane! Erikson extended Freud’s psychosexual stages and applied them to be a little more social. It is known as  Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development. It goes from birth till death. A great source is: http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/erickson/

Let’s quickly talk about cognitive theory. There was this funny looking Swiss clinical psychologist known for his pioneering work in child development named Jean Piaget. He believed that children developed schemas, which are basically just building blocks of knowledge. A child builds on schemas by first assimilation, which is using an existing schema to deal with a new object or situation. For example, a child grows up with a cat, and then she sees a dog. Well, the child thinks it is a cat because the dog has fur and four legs. Well, a dog is a dog and a cat is a cat. So then, the child uses accommodation. This happens when the schema is wrong, and so she needs to change her idea of cat to deal with a new object or situation (the dog). Finally, when the child understands the difference between each one this is called equilibration.

I know I am going really quickly, but really they are pretty basic, I mean, we lived them and are currently living them. I do recommend you check out the link on Erikson’s stages of development, it is the best example I could find, and they explain each stage really well.

A little about me, I want to work in the Navy with sailors, Marines, and their families, as either a clinical psychologist, counseling psychologist or rehabilitation psychologist. I am really interested in the effects that stress and trauma have in the military service member and her/his family. PTSD, to be honest, fascinates me! I also consider myself a behaviorist, if I had to pick.

What is behaviorism? The behavioral perspective came to be a little after the psychoanalysis, and it was in direct opposition to their unscientific methods like free association, dream analysis, and haha penis envy. The behavioral psychologist used learning, the adjustment of behavior because of experience, as their basic approach. There is classical conditioning, Pavlov, and his dogs are best known for this. Classical conditioning is when a specific stimulus may come to elicit a response. Using Pavlov as an example, he rang a bell and then feed his dogs causing his dogs to salivate. He did this for some time, and eventually, it got to the point where all Pavlov had to do was ring the bell and his dogs would start to salivate. No food involved.

I want to end this something that my crush helped to develop. I have had this major crush on B.F. Skinner since I first read about his work. He is known for a form of behaviorism called instrumental or operant conditioning. This is where a person, can reach a new goal or desired behavior through reward or punishment. Positive reinforcement is when one gets a reward because of their actions; negative reinforcement is when something unpleasant is taken away because of good behavior. The punishment was a last resort in changing a behavior, because, IT REALLY DOES NOT WORK! (more on that at a later date). Here is an example. You are training your dog to sit. She sits the first time, so you give her a treat. Now she sits again, and you give her another treat. Eventually, all you have to do is say “sit,” and the dog will sit without or with a treat; the same thing happens with people. Here is a really cool video of Skinner explaining his work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_ctJqjlrHA.

I really do recommend looking through the videos and hyperlinks. It’s really great stuff!



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