The last subject we covered in university before I dropped out was child development – an area of psychology overflowing with zany theories and crazy ideas (cough, Freud, cough). In all seriousness though, child development is one of the most interesting topics in psychology to learn about and is also, arguably, the most important, as just about everything that we think and do today as adults has its roots dug firmly in our childhood.
While it might be too late for you to change your past, with some fundamental training in developmental psychology you should be able to raise your current or future children the best way they can be raised. Also, knowing how your past has shaped the person you are in the present is essential to mending history’s mistakes and moving on so that when the time comes to have children you are better equipped for the challenge. First, like with most things in life, we have to start slow, that is we gotta talk about the history! Walk with me, take the blue pill, and listen closely while I explain to you the fascinating story of psychology’s obsession with children, and their life journey from birth to neurosis.
This post will be dealing with a more science oriented approach to psychology known as cognitive neuroscience, which is a branch of psychology that involves intensive study of the brain as well as behaviour. The human brain is a lot more than a mass of grey goop; it is an extremely complicated organ consisting of a team of 50 billion neurons (each of which link up to 10,000 more neurons!) that work around the clock to control every thought, action, and perception we have. Your brain is responsible for literally everything you think and know about yourself and the world you live in, and is therefore the holy grail of psychology, as everything that is knowable has it’s roots in the brain. Even though we all have a brain, we are not born with an instruction manual on how to use it, or how it works. So we spend the rest of our lives letting it work on autopilot, outside our conscious control – do we control the brain, or does the brain control us?
A 'Mandala' drawn by one of Jung's patients.
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a famous Swiss psychiatrist who began his exploration of the unconscious while he was a pupil of Sigmund Freud in his early psychiatric years; he credited for being the father of analytic psychology, which was an evolution of Freud’s school of psychoanalytic thought. Jung developed many psychological theories which are still widely studied and researched to this very day, and was responsible, along with Freud, for making the concept of the unconscious known to the world through extensive analysis of his patient’s dreams.
Among Jung’s many theories are the concepts of the collective unconscious, archetypes, the anima/animus, synchronicity (meaningful coincidences), psychic phenomenon and introverted and extraverted personality types. Jung also developed the use of word association tests as a means of investigating the link between a patients conscious thoughts and their unconscious fears and desires. Jung believed that the process of individuation – the integration of the conscious and unconscious mind – was the only way for a ‘splintered’ man to become whole, and was therefore the ultimate goal of psychotherapy. He developed a method for achieving individuation which he termed Active Imagination – the confronting of unconscious archetypes by method of dream analysis and drawing of mandalas.
Carl Jung was a remarkable individual who blazed a fiery trail in the field of psychology that none have matched since. He is most well known for his extensive studies on Eastern philosophy, the occult, and psychic phenomena; his Collected Works comprises of nearly 20 volumes. American mythologist Joseph Campbell picked up the pieces that Jung left behind him, and formed his theory of the monomyth – the single myth that all myths draw from – which was inspired by Jung’s concept of archetypes who he had developed from his examining of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. My thought is also hugely influenced by Jung, and so I thought a glossary of his most used terms and concepts would be useful for readers of this blog who are unaware of his work; hopefully this post sparks a flame of interest in you, and results in you choosing to seek out the wisdom of Carl Jung for yourself.
This is part 2 of the 2 parter on human development. This post focuses on social development, which are changes in interpersonal thought, feeling and behaviour throughout the life span. We will journey through the different relationships people form throughout life, from intimate attachments in infancy through to adulthood, to sibling and peer relationships; the development of beliefs and feelings about themselves and others; and the way these beliefs and feelings about themselves and others; and the way these beliefs and feelings are expressed in different social contexts.
The following is Part 1 of a 2 part series on development. Part 1 focuses on physical and cognitive development in humans; we will begin by exploring three basic issues. Firstly, we will discover the extent that the development process is the product of either nature or nature. Secondly we will discuss evidence for critical periods in psychological development. And finally, we will consider whether development occurs in stages or in a continuous, gradual change. After all of this, I will outline the most important psychological model of development that we have in cognitive psychology – Piaget’s theory of cognitive development.
This post in the Psychology 101 series focuses on motivation, the driving force behind behaviour which leads us to pursue some things and avoid others. Firstly we will take a broad approach and examine each of the major perspectives on motivation ranging from the psychodynamic to the evolutionary model. Finally we will zoom in a little and consider some of the most important individual motives that guide human behaviour.
Language is the system of symbols, sounds, meanings and rules established by society and is the primary mode of communication for humans. This post will begin by considering the ways language and thought shape each other. Then we will examine the elements of language, how people use it in everyday life, and how children acquire the capacity to think and communicate with words. In so doing, we enter into one of the most intriguing debates in all of psychology: the extent to which the capacity to acquire language is innate. The post will conclude by considering whether we are alone among species in the capacity to use symbols to think.
This part of the Psychology 101 series of posts is about thought and reasoning – the ways we transform and manipulate mental representations to navigate our way through life. Thoughts manifest, and the power of thoughts should not be underestimated. This is why it is such a big area of interest in the field of psychology. The following post will explore the basic units of thought, such as mental images and concepts, and the way people manipulate these units to reason, solve problems and make decisions. Next we examine implicit and everyday thinking, exploring how people solve problems and make judgements outside of awareness, often relying on emotion as well as cognition.
Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour that occurs as a result of experience. It is an ongoing process that starts at birth and continues throughout our lifespan to help us adapt and cope in an ever changing world. From an evolutionary point of view learning is critical for for our survival in enabling us to distinguish between edible and inedible foods and to tell apart friends from enemies. The range of possible foods or threats are too great to be prewired into the brain, so instead we have the ability to learn from trial and error, and from observance of others, and to remember this learned information for future use.
Note that in this post I will be using the word organism a lot when describing learning processes that apply to humans as well as animals and insects. I’m not trying to be a cold and calculating science type, but for the purpose of this type of guide it is somewhat necessary… and besides, you are an organism!
Memory is a complex process that we take very much for granted. Imagine what life would be like if you didn’t have a memory. You would have zero recollection of what happened to you ten seconds, minutes or years ago. Without memory, every moment would be a new experience (and not in a good way, but in a bad ‘who am I and what am I doing!?’ way). Every person you met would be a total stranger and each task you attempted, would probably be a struggle to say the least. Even basic tasks such as brushing your teeth or putting your clothes on would be difficult without assistance, as you would have no memory of how to do them. You would not be able to hold a conversation and you would have no friends because you would have no memory of ever having met a person. Without memory you would have no self-concept or personal identity, which develops through the many experiences and memories we have throughout our lives. Without any of these we would have no basis for developing an understanding of who we are. Every time you looked in the mirror you would confront a complete stranger. It is memory that allows us to integrate our thoughts with the past, present and future. Without it we would be nothing, but it also has it’s negatives.
The psychological concept of memory involves taking something we have observed – whether it be a smell, a sound, or sight, or a combination of the three – and converting it into a form we can store, retrieve and use. The following post on memory will briefly consider the various ways the human brain can preserve the raw material of memory, and also explore the evolving model of information processing that has guided psychologists’ efforts to understand memory for the last quarter of a century. and organised in long term memory
Did you know that there are people out there who are exactly like you, only you might not have met them yet? And I mean exactly like you. A long time ago, the late-great psychoanalyst Carl Jung developed a personality profiling system in his book ‘Psychological Types‘. This model was converted into a simple psychological test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and has been used as the basis for grouping personality types from its inception, to this very present moment. You’ve been exposed to this personality type system without even knowing it in ‘star signs’, ‘which drug are you’ Facebook quizzes and even in daily conversation. If you’ve ever been called an extravert or an introvert for example, then you can thank Jung for coining those terms.
The personality test is about 60 questions in length and asks a series of questions designed to cross reference and examine your 4 main personality traits out of 8. These are
- Introvert ——- Extravert
- INtuitive ——– Sensing
- Thinking ——- Feeling
- Judging ——- Perceiving
Before you read on, be sure to take the test!