I have been asked to consider specific blogs/topics that have inspired me. With no disrespect intended, I was unable to discover unfamiliar inspirational themes as regards this particular task.

As we are always searching in the outside for what is missing in the inside, I understand, through experience, the rationale for these quests to explore themes such as superstitions, omens and psychic phenomena. There is the orthogenetic theory to consider and people need something to believe in. After all, this has led certain students to study psychology.

 It is not an easy assignment, especially for the younger students, to acknowledge that the ideas and beliefs of romance might be detached with the scientific evidence approach of challenging and supporting theories in psychology. Similarly, basing certainty by way of evidence requires the awareness that evidence is never certain!  Science provides us with the cause or causes, Psychic and related Phenomena together with religion searches for a final clause or purpose.

During my research for this project, my inspiration has come, in particular, from the psychology heavy weights such as Zimbardo and Milgram.

Based on their research, we all have a better understanding on how people behave in certain situations, how people can change, how we can contribute and support in efforts to improve awareness.

In relation to these psychologists, their innovative theories, models and case studies, have provided us with various explanations of behaviours and processes of change through empirical evidence. These analyses and attributions have contributed to develop dozens of behaviour change programs, interventions that focus on the decision making of the individual and left a deep impression on human civilization.

Too many of us believe without question. Zimbardo identifies this as a “subjective reality which influences how we perceive the world” ( Gross 2010). It also seems as if the majority of us conform, and uphold obedience to authority without any question. Although, Milgram’s study was conducted nearly a century ago, a recent replication revealed about the same rate of obedience (Burger 2009).

Then again, what allows you to make sense of it all, depends of course on who you are.

As Samuel Johnson famously quoted “Our aspirations are our possibilities”.


Gross, R. (2010) Psychology, The Science of Mind and Behaviour, 6th edn.

   London: Hodder Education

Schacter.,Gilbert., Wegner. (2011) Psychology, 2nd edn.

   New York: Worth Publishers.


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Psychologists have not reached agreement designating the precise definition of intelligence. However, an accepted premise within the dispute is that intelligence is the ability to learn from experience and the ability to adapt to the environment (Schacter et al 2011). Nonetheless, intelligence seems to be constructed on the measurement of an intelligence test, IQ, or intelligence quotient. This originated from Francis Galton’s (1869) belief that intelligence was a specific general ability, was principally innate and that it could best be measured in terms related to velocity of problem solving and other mental process.

Emotional intelligence is widely accepted by psychologists as several physiognomies relating to humanity and relationships (Gross 2010). The disagreement seems to be on what those physiognomies are. Hayes (2010) suggests that the debate is also how far these aptitudes can be measured by psychometric tests and goes on to say that EQ, emotional quotient has been recommended as an assessment similar to the IQ or intelligence quotient.

Hernstein & Murray’s highly controversial book The Bell Curve (1994) attempts to give an account on what psychologists views are in respect of IQ intelligence. They state that intelligence, IQ, is a general mental aptitude that involves skills of planning, hypothetical reasoning, comprehending complex ideas and learning with velocity as well as learning from experience. The measurements of IQ tests are of great practical significance. Nothing guarantees failure in life but it seems that the odds for success in our society are greater with higher IQs. However, personas, talents, and physical competences are prominent to intelligence in particular occupations. Therefore, it is difficult to define success unless it is involving materialism… another debate !?

Charles Darwin, Galton’s cousin, was the first to reveal a scientific treatise on non-verbal emotional expressions and suggested we can identify facial expressions corresponding to the emotional condition.  These are termed “manifest emotions”. It is not totally agreeable with experts, but it seems that there are six emotions: happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness, anger and fear.  Darwin also states that we all inherit macro and micro emotional programs and is a key feature of a successful social life.  This cannot be learnt.  There are also two major considerations including whether we can easily and accurately control our physical display of emotions and the conscious awareness of these emotions.

Debates concerning intelligence have been discussed since way back before Aristotle times. Students could be partial to believe the “Flynn effect” suggesting that we are becoming smarter by way of our marks. Although, Flynn (1987) never examined the reliability, validity and usefulness of IQ tests in educational and occupational settings.

It is only in the last 40 years and with Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence in 1995 that discussions have intensified with the addition of emotional intelligence. Most psychologists support the theory of EQ as it focuses on elements of human functioning which have not otherwise been adequately acknowledged until recently.

To have only IQ, intellect can be harmful as some individuals try to inflict their IQ, high-status power within society. These people who lack any or negligible facets of emotional intelligence do not retain compassion and this yields them dangerous.  However, to have academic knowledge, IQ, and possess humanity, EQ, is wisdom to be respected from the highest degree.



Darwin, C (1872) The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. Definitive edition

  Paul Ekman. New York: Bibliobazaar

Flyn, J.R. (2007) What is intelligence? Beyhond the Flynn Effect. New York:

   Cambridge Universty Press

Sir Francis Galton [online] available from <http//> accessed [18 Dec 2011]

Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional Intellegence. New York: Bantam

Gross, R. (2010) Psychology, the science of mind and behaviour, 6th edn.

     London: Hodder Education

Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner (2011) Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers.

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Not Neurotic, v Just Different

There have long been those who challenge the power and practices of psychiatrists.

Critics, dissidents and reformers have at different times and places condemned conventional academic and biological psychiatry.  This anti-psychiatry movement deemed that families, institutions and social policy were as much the reason for illness as a person’s biological functioning or genetic makeup. They contested the medical model of illness and treatment. They believed that those living by different codes of conduct were wrongly and dangerously labelled delusional (Szasz 1960).

Drugs, electroshock, ECT and specific brain surgery as pre-frontal lobotomies were the opposed mental treatments applied for the various mental disorders. There were cases in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia illustrating how psychiatry was implemented as a component of the oppressive arm of the state (Goffman1961).

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1960 was shown at the height of the “anti-psychiatry movement and touched all of us who question repression of the human spirit.

One of the most famous anti-psychiatry studies is “On being sane in Insane Places” Rosenhan (1970).  Eight normal mentally healthy researchers tried to gain admission through diagnosis to a number of American hospitals. The only symptom they described was that they had been hearing voices. Seven of these researchers were diagnosed schizophrenic and were admitted. Once in the hospital they behaved naturally but were disregarded on requesting information about their treatments etc. Their schizophrenia diagnosis signified lower status and power within the hospital environment.  Even after informing the authorities of their research it was approximately three weeks before they were discharged with the diagnosis of schizophrenia in remission.

Therefore, normal, healthy people could easily be diagnosable as abnormal.

Could the reverse happen? The same researchers told the psychiatric hospital staff that pseudo patients pretending to be schizophrenics may try to obtain access to their hospital. 19 indisputably ill patients were suspected as impostors by two members of staff resistance, one being a psychiatrist.

Therefore, their conclusion, once again, supports the hypothesis that it is not possible to distinguish the sane from the insane.

In some ways anti-psychiatry’s resistance succeeded as many treatments have ceased and certain mental hospitals were closed.  Psychiatry now adopts specific principles including evidence based treatments, patients made aware of diagnosis, patients informed of realistic expectations of care and receiving compassion and respect (Gross 2010).

However, people who are sexually, politically or morally deviant or just uniquely different are still considered neurotic.  Maybe psychology can help us then?!


Goffman, E. (1961) Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients

    and other inmates: Penquin Social Sciences.

Gross, R. (2010) Psychology, the science of mind and behaviour. 6th edn’

   London: Hodder Education

Rosenhan, T.W. (1970) “On being sane in Insane Places” [online]. Available

   from <http//:www.bonkersinstitute.rg/rosenhan.html>

Szasz, (1960) The Myth of mental illness. London

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Abnormal or Normal Behaviour

Normal behaviour is a difficult concept to define. People who perceive themselves as normal by society’s norms would, to a certain extent, be fairly abnormal as the stereotyped description of being normal is not feasible for people in general to achieve. Hayes (2010) affirms that every person is “uniquely individual”. This idea of that sought after state of how one should think or behave is a more what ought to be than what is reasonably possible.

Abnormal behaviour or abnormal psychology is also referred to as clinical psychology. Yet again, it is not that easy to give a definition of abnormal behaviour.  To identify people who are distraught or acting strangely is relatively easy. Abnormal represents departure from the norm (Gross 2010).  In this context, therefore, tall and short people are abnormal, as are exceptionally talented and obtuse people. Therefore Freud and say, Aristotle were abnormal. The list goes on…

Most clinical psychologists accept that having a goal of being normal can often be relatively unhealthy. This can inhibit individuality and can lead to erroneous feelings of abnormality because they feel that they are different. However, the question for clinical psychologists is not whether the behaviour is abnormal but whether it is maladaptive causing distress and social impairment. If a person’s behaviour seems irrational or potentially harmful to themselves and others, we tend to think of that as abnormal. The psychologist terms this psychopathology (Gross 2010). The lay person refers this to madness or insanity.

Our personal concept, our lay understanding, is contingent on our past experiences and insights we have accumulated through the years. Hayes (2010) considers that as we grow older we often end up with “dissimilar beliefs, habits and ideas” from those we had earlier on in life. Nevertheless, it would be incorrect to take a subjective view, based on our principles, on the criteria of normality. This primitive approach puts people into categories of normal, abnormal and very abnormal without an intersection. Again, this is not the real world. It is very easy to categorise others abnormal, particularly those different from us or those who appear to portend us.

Similar to the majority of people, I would like the certainty and clarity of an accurate distinction between normal and abnormal. The view of the perfect world has been inaugurated by religious and political philosophy, history and culture. This can structure what is considered normal and abnormal. To evaluate any definition of abnormality would also be ambiguous. An unhealthy person in a healthy society is considered to be abnormal. But nothing is normal because no one is perfect.

After only a minor amount of researching abnormal psychology, I am aware of being influenced into thinking I have indications of specific mental illnesses. Within mental health, patients diagnosed with mental disorders do not possess considerable self-awareness as some are noticeably deluded.

Therefore, just because you are unique does not necessarily indicate abnormality. It is important also to be aware of the extremist views concerning conformity and obedience to authority as these could be the elements repressing normality!


Hayes, N. (2010) Psychology for the curious. London: Hodder Education

Gross, R. (2010) Osychology, the science of mind and behaviour: 6th edn.

  London: Hodder Education.


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Nature v Nurture

Nature v Nurture is one of the most fundamental long standing debates in developmental psychology and many argue it is impossible to separate the two principles sometimes referred to as free will v determinism.  The Nature v Nurture discussion focusses on genetic, innate characteristics and environmental influences causative to human development and this has divided psychology into powerful movements like the Eugenics movement (advocating that the human race can be improved by selective reproduction) as opposed to the Evolutionary principle of natural selection founded by Darwin, Charles (1838).  Moreover, gender identity, homosexuality etc. have all been seen as almost exclusively genetically determined or totally “socially constructed”.

Going way back in time to the ancient Greek philosophers (428 BC), the Nature argument can be portrayed subject to the Socratic “Theory of Recollection and Experience”. This was a hypothesis of learning written by the Classical, Greek Philosopher, Plato who was also a Mathematician and a student of another Greek heavyweight Philosopher, Socrates. Socrates was Plato’s mentor. His philosophical dialogues incorporated his deliberations that an innovation concerning our own ignorance should generate an aspiration for the knowledge that evades us. This sophistical argument has come to be known as the “Meno’s Paradox” or the “Paradox of Enquiry”.  Plato approved with Socrates, but additionally questioned as to how such knowledge, which had managed to elude even Socrates, could ever be attained. He found his answer in the “Theory of Recollection”, one of the most infamous philosophical literatures. What we currently term as learning, he claimed in the “Meno Paradox” and is in fact the recollection of knowledge in an existence present before our birth, in brief, the immortality of the soul.

However, none of his successors, Aristotle and Epicurus found this a resounding proposition.  All went to significant extents to challenge the “Recollection theory” which implies that they were suitably impressed by the prominent question he was attempting to answer.  Plato’s “Theory of Recollection” represented the catalyst for what was to be a long-running philosophical debate about foundations of knowledge and the nature symposium.

Then again, recollection can only enter into the equation when we have already acquired a level of conceptual thought and start to become perplexed, frustrated and unhappy with the evaluation we have obtained. Those who do not become perplexed in this way do not even begin to recollect and the exceptional resources dormant within them remain completely idle, as supported by Scott, Dominic (1995). As the famous quote by the English biologist Huxley, T.H. (1873) states “The thief and the murderer follow nature just as much as the philanthropist”.

Nurture could be characterised and summarized in the context of the mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience or the uniformed featureless mind. Aristotle in obvious reaction to Plato placed great emphasis upon perception and experiences both in scientific and ethical learning. Aristotle and Aquinas, St Thomas supported the radical “nurture” or “environmental” theory, as opposed to the “nature” or “hereditarianism“ beliefs.

Tabula Rasa is the Latin for “scraped tablet”. The Tabula Rasa or blank-state hypothesis denotes that people are born with no genetic, innate or evolutionary content that develop or cultivate over time.  This postulation (one of the most principal tenets of Marxism and communist doctrines) conveys that we are born as a blank slate, an empty disk, onto which data is stored. Personal experiences determine who we are, what we become and what we believe. The modern notion is mainly derived from the 17th century English empirical philosopher Locke, John (1672) who saw the mind at birth as an empty blank void without any form of intelligence and without any predetermined or innate instincts.  In this logic, people are able to establish their own destiny and individuality.

In short, both Plato, and other Philosophers such as Descartes (1631) agree that certain things are inborn or they simply occur naturally regardless of environmental influences and all believe in the idea that the human mind or spirit pre-exists in some developed form in the heavens. The clearest objection to this theory comes from Darwin, Charles (1838) and the evolutionary psychologists as they do not accept this as it is not scientific fact. The evolutionary psychologist’s position is concise in that the human being (body and mind) has been assigned by natural selection to behave in particular way. The brain is the product of evolutionary adaptation. We are hard wired and in this sense predestined to behave in particular ways. We remain the “naked “apes and/or of Tabula rasa tradition.

Genes and environments shape human development and are not confined to questions of IQ scores. They have implications for virtually every aspect of human character and capabilities. Even if the heritability of a trait is extremely high, as it is for height, the environment still can excerpt a very powerful influence (Scott, Dominic 1995). Geneticists present an interesting thesis in that heritability will tend to be higher in a good environment than in a poor one because the former provides the necessary resources for the biological potential to be realized.  After all, what good is having a great potential for say, music or art when the schools you attend do not teach them. Likewise, having an excellent potential for intelligence may be of limited use if you are reared in an environment lacking an intellectual wherewithal.

 Although, psychology research is verified by scientific evidence, nearly all responsible research psychologists agree that human traits are jointly determined by both nature and nurture. They may disagree about the relative contributions of each. Not all biological influences on development are genetic, some are down to hormones and some are down to viruses and infections. These biological differences can be critical features of the intrauterine environment that can be mistaken for genetic influences. All of these heritability estimates and studies are highly situational of describing relative contributions of genes and environments to the expression of a trait in a specific group. This discloses nothing as this research has to include country, time and group measurements.

Therefore, if you do not have the encouragement, or given the right opportunities for your abilities at the correct time in the early years the enhancement of your abilities from genetic or non-genetic sources cannot be enriched and the individual’s real potential is very seldom achieved.  Enhancement only comes through when we are displeased with our assessment of values and able to perceive our own full potential to develop our unique skills but at the same time realising our own personal limitations. In this sense, I do not think people change.  They become the essence of who they really are.

Finally, as I am the eldest in my family, I was delighted to read research by Sulloway, (2007) that first-born children tend to be more intelligent than their later-born siblings (something of which I always deduced). Many psychologists believe that the oldest children benefit in the fact that, for a little while at least, they don’t have to share their parents with anyone else. Thus they have an improved knowledgeable environment as opposed to their younger siblings (Hertwig, Davis, & Sulloway, 2002; Zajonc, 1997, 2001). Therefore, in strength of this research Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner. (2009) state that intelligence comes from being raised first and not being born first.

These big questions will continue to be confronted as they have been through the years since even before 428BC. However, extensive scientific, biological and medical progress are significantly assisting us now onto the road of discovery and hopefully, eventually nearer to, at least, some of the answers.

List of References

Benson, Hugh, H. (1992) edn. Essays on the Philosophy of Socriates. London: Oxford                     ..University Press.

Darwin, Charles (1838) The Origin of Species, ed. by Griffith Tom (1998). Ware: .  ..Wordsworth Publishers

Hertwig, Davis, & Sulloway, 2002; Zajonc, (1997, 2001) cited in Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner   ..2nd edn (2011). New York: Worth Publishers

Huxley, Thomas, Henry. (1873) Aphorisms & Reflections from the works of T.H. Huxley, .. ed by Huxley, Henrietta, (1907). London: MacMillan & Co. Limited [online]. Available from <> [20 Nov 2011]

Locke, John. (1672) An essay concerning human understanding ed by Phemister, Pauline.  ..(2008). St Ives: Oxford University Press

Sulloway. (2007) cited in Schacter, Gilbert, Wegner 2nd edn. New York: Worth Pubishers.

Scott, Dominic (1995) Recollection and experience, Plato’s theory of learning and it’s ..successors. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

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Love v Lust

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Good v Evil

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Good v Evil Evil has always consisted of denying someone of his or her right to be completely human both in the psychological and physical sense. Evil seems to be universally banal, carrying a metaphysical connotation and suggesting moral boundaries … Continue reading

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Psychology and Commonsense

Psychology and Common sense – Why bother with this psychology?

At times, psychological theories are counterintuitive and some are common sense.


Investigation and testing processes can result in what people associate to common sense. Research Psychologists, in these situations, are accused of wasting funding for investigating the obvious.  We will never know valid and false common sense unless we go through with these research procedures and methods. We would all just accept ready-made explanations, social beliefs, assumptions and judgements passed on from one person to another and we would not look for alternative explanations but take all things for granted. As psychology is a science, it is no different from the other sciences such as physics and chemistry, accumulating evidence for a hypothesis.

Common sense suggests, even to professional psychologists and psychiatrists that most people would not kill another person by pressing switches just because they weren’t too hot on memorising paired words.  Stanley MIlgram’s controversial and dramatic study, 1965 showed that most people WOULD be prepared to shock to death an innocent man by obeying an explicit order.

However, if MIlgram had not conducted this experiment, we would never had identified that 65% of people would obey rather than confront an authoritive figure, even if this is an example of extremities in social influence.

Conformity, both normative and informational,  is also a type of social influence punitive to change of belief in the way of a implicit requirement of going along with the group even if one is certain the group is wrong in their actions , answers or decisions.  Conformity can be defined as “yielding to group pressure” (Crutchfield, 1954). The most famous Asch experiments, 1951, 1952, 1956, have been repeated several times resulting in the same conclusions, being “majority influenced”.

All these investigations would not go under the heading of common sense but hierarchy. Conformity regulates the behaviour of equal status subjects whereas obedience links one status to another. Psychology aims to understand behaviour. It also tries to solve human problems.

Nevertheless, as it is an integral constituent to realise that common sense can be right (as well as wrong), it is also an equal pithy consideration that Psychologists do not have the entirety of knowledge.  After all, possessing intelligence is not the same as wisdom, ( but that’s another debate!)   However, experts disagree that Psychologists should be able to see different perspectives to various problems and avoid being heretic to paradigm shifts in the world of scientific orthodoxy, even if their views are radically different from those of the majority of their peers.

“The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson : often it is not so much the kind of person the person is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act” Stanley Milgram 1974.

My personal observation, as a first year Psychology undergraduate is that pro- active individuals with the odds stacked against them can achieve successful outcomes with self- awareness, and good empirical life skills. It is easy to judge, conform and obey someone else.  Ah, but to recognise your own misgivings and take positive steps to change, there IS the challenge, and there is where the Psychologist could come in.

 Do you possess common nonsense?

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