Task one of this document will demonstrate an understanding and produce an evaluation of The Behavioural and Physiological and Cognitive Approaches to Psychology, selected from the numerous Approaches available.
Psychology is both an applied and academic field that studies the human mind and behaviour. Research in psychology seeks to understand and explain the thought, emotion and behaviour. (www.psychology.about.com).
The Behavioural Approach
This is the theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviours are acquired through classical (natural occurring stimuli paired with a response) and operant (active behaviour that operates upon the environment to generate consequences) conditioning. Accordingly, behaviour can be studied in a systematic and observable manner, with no consideration of internal mental state.
One of the most famous behaviourism theorists John B. Watkins conducted ???The Little Albert Experiment???, where a small child was conditioned to fear a white rat by playing loud, horrific sounds when the rat was present. The child??™s fear became generalised with other objects that resembled the rat thus proving that human reactions can be classically conditioned.
B.F.Skinner??™s Operant Conditioning theory explained that by using positive/negative reinforcement or punishment cause an increase or decrease in behaviours. For example, an employee works significantly harder to gain a promotion as a reward. Behaviourism assumes that we are all born equally as ???a blank slate???, the complete opposite to the Cognitive Approach, which relies on the study of thought processes. Behaviourism can not be dismissed as the effects of the environment must be considered in the development of personality and behaviours. Classical conditioning also explains phobias and neurosis, therefore some aspects of behaviourism can be used today in psychotherapy. It is also easy to quantify as it??™s based upon observation. However, there are many criticisms of this approach. Firstly, it contradicts Darwin??™s theory of natural selection. As Dahlborn (1984) confirms Darwin believes humans are constantly improving themselves to gain better self control, yet to do so means to increase liberty and free-will. Another criticism is that it does not explain the development of language. Language is separate from physical behaviour and influences our thoughts. This is supported by Seligman (1970), where he claims language is a genetic preparedness of an organism.
The Physiological Approach
This is the study of the brain and anatomy and how it causes or relates to behaviour. It believes us to be a consequence of our genetics and is the only approach to consider thoughts, feelings and behaviour from a biological perspective. This approach states we are hard-wired for language and it is understood that genetics influence our individual development both physically and psychologically. This approach shows contrasting assumptions to those of the Behavioural approach.
Broca (1869) discovered damage in part of his patient??™s brain which was interfering with speech ability, located in the inferior frontal gyrus, situated in the frontal lobe of the brain (Broca??™s area) via post-mortem. Wernicke (1874) discovered in the same way a damaged area within the left temporal lobe behind the primary auditory cortex, which was disrupting his patient??™s comprehension and ability to verbally respond to questions. These discoveries allowed psychologists to relate different behaviours to certain parts of the brain.
A strong factor to support this approach is that it is very scientific with many empirical studies to support the theories. J. Burger (2004) believes that it provides a bridge between the study of personality and the discipline of biology. Also, advances in technology provide a variety of methods that can be used to record and measure brain activity, such as; EEG, CAT Scans and MRI Scans which can detect some psychological disorders (for example, Schizophrenia, believed to be caused by over-production of Dopamine) and allow medics to treat them with drugs that can alter certain neurotransmitters. However, the matter of ???cause and effect??? exists, which questions whether the brain activity causes the behaviour or vice versa. This is supported by (J. Kalat 2008) where he states philosophers and scientists continue to address the mind-body relationship. Additionally, this approach is very deterministic, leaving little room to examine the subject of free-will, a similar limitation to that of the Behavioural Approach.
The Cognitive Approach
The Cognitive approach refers to a person??™s mental process, such as thinking, imagining, info-processing and language. Cognitive psychologists focus on how people retrieve information from different senses then processed by the brain which has a direct consequence to an individual??™s behaviour. This affects how an individual feels and perceives the world around them. Cognitive research is often carried out in a laboratory rather than real-life situations and although variables and results can be easily controlled therefore, issues such as experimental bias, reliability and generalisation can be brought to question. Additionally, ethical concerns must always be considered.
Cognitive psychology has been closely linked to computer science suggesting the human brain works in a similar way. However, theorists should take into account that the human brain is far more complex and is affected by other stimuli such as experiences, culture and genetics. It has also been related to abnormal behaviour via disordered thinking. This includes schizophrenia as an individual??™s thoughts are affected by their thought processing and the individual is usually unaware of them. (Eyesnck et el 2005). It has been argued that cognitive psychology disorders are learnt and therefore can be unlearnt, very similar to theories within the Behavioural Approach. Cognitive psychologists believe that certain behaviours such as aggression can be altered and manipulated through cognitive behaviour therapy as a person??™s thoughts can be monitored and evaluated. However, this contradicts the theory that behaviour is affected by physiological explanations (Physiological Approach). Theorists also state that individuals think and behave rationally and are therefore happy. If an individual is exposed to prolonged negativity or irrational thinking, it can lead to psychological problems (Ellis et el 1975).
To conclude, psychology is not an exact science. To study one approach alone would be highly reductionist. To achieve a valid understanding a explanation to human thought, emotion and behaviour, a large amount of evidence and research from a variety of approaches, such as the Humanistic, Psychodynamic, Social and Developmental must be analytically considered and applied.
Within this section of the document, the Physiological Approach will be selected to explain Schizophrenia. Its effectiveness will then be determined in regards to treating this abnormal behaviour. Furthermore, the impact of Mental Disorders on the Police Service and how they manage with general mental health will be analytically discussed.
Schizophrenia and the Physiological Approach
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental condition that is characterised by positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions and negative symptoms such as incoherence and physical agitation. Around one in a hundred people will be diagnosed with schizophrenia at some point in their life. (Creek 2008). The exact cause is still unknown; though there is a large amount of scientific evidence to suggest that physiological reasoning exists. In terms of explaining Schizophrenia from a physiological view, there are several aspects to be considered. Firstly, genetics. Scientific research has confirmed that some people are more at risk to developing the disorder due to the inheritance of their genes. Appendix 1 illustrates how high the risk is, according to the relation of the person with schizophrenia. However, studies on twins have shown that this is not the only contributing factor. If one twin has the illness, the other is only 50% at risk. This indicates a complexity of genetics and environments that are not quite yet understood. (www.schizophrenia.com). Furthermore, according to the British Journal of Psychiatry; in families where there is a history of schizophrenia, the risk of? a child developing schizophrenia? may be significantly reduced if a healthy low-stress family environment can be created and sustained. (Tienari et el 2004). This verifies that environmental and social factors are extremely significant when explaining the development of Schizophrenia.
Secondly, the Dopamine Hypothesis. Researchers claim that the transmission of the neurotransmitter Dopamine is to some extent disrupted. Either the level of Dopamine is too high or the brain is particularly sensitive to the chemical. This could affect behaviour profoundly and explain some abnormal symptoms such as delusional thinking as it disturbs vital chemical messaging that are responsible for certain functions (i.e. self awareness and emotion). (Carllson 2004). In additional support to this, some illegal drugs known to increase levels of Dopamine (e.g. Cannabis) can provoke psychotic behaviour similar to those in Schizophrenia and medicines known to reduce Dopamine also reduce some symptoms of schizophrenia but by no means cure the disorder, thus can not explain fully the extent of the illness. These medicines will be discussed in more depth later. In argument to this, some theorists such as Peroutka & Snyder, 1980 claim that it is the Dopamine receptors (D2) that are over-active, hence why no other receptors (D1-5) are affected.
Another physiological explanation is structural abnormalities in the brain. MRI scans have revealed that schizophrenia sufferers have larger than average ventricles and small frontal lobes. (Cannon and Marco 1994). Researchers claim that paternal exposure to infection can lead to an increased risk of Schizophrenia later in life. Studies involving the herpes virus during pregnancy have proven a link, however can not, by itself be a predictive factor. (Yolken 2004).
In order to determine the effectiveness of treatments from a physiological approach, we must evaluate the methods available. The first line and most commonly used treatment are a variety of anti-psychotics which block Dopamine receptors (Appendix 2) and in most cases reduce some of the ???positive??™ symptoms of the disorder. The world wide practice of this medication demonstrates the effectiveness it has on decreasing areas of Schizophrenia and undoubtedly increase in effect in future as new development of anti-psychotics has revolutionised over the past few years. (Stone 2006). However, they do not guarantee freedom from relapse and can also entail side-effects. Statistics show that if antipsychotics are stopped, after two years there is about a one in three chance of remaining well. (www.nmhct.nhs.uk). This suggests that the short term effectiveness of the treatment is substantial but the long term is extremely limited.
A very rare treatment for schizophrenia is Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) which has evolved into a safe option of sending small electrics current through the brain to stimulate a response. But, like Anti-psychotic medication, its effectiveness has little long term strength. The evidence for this is revealed in statistics as up to 50% of patients relapse within 6 months (Hirsch 1995).
Overall, the physiological approach can not solely explain Schizophrenia as there are proven other environmental and psychological factors that contribute to the disorder. Although there is strong scientific evidence that displays physiological reasoning behind some symptoms of Schizophrenia, researchers believe that ???triggers??™ such as stressful environments and traumatic events have an important role in understanding the disorder. Current schizophrenia theories suggest no single cause of schizophrenia exists. Experts believe it is actually more than one disorder, and that schizophrenia symptoms are caused by several subtly different mental disorders (Beers 1999). The effectiveness of physiological treatment is restricted by the fact that it only reduces some symptoms and other treatments such as counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) must be coherently used in order to control and prevent psychotic episodes from reoccurring.
The Police and Mental Health
The Police Service is generally the first at the scene of a suspected mental health incident. 15% of daily incidents are in some way related to mental health (Rutherford 2007), demonstrating a significant impact on policing. Under Section 136 of The Mental Health Act 1983, the police are eligible to take an individual they suspect of being mentally unstable to a ???place of safety??™ for up to 72 hours, commonly the police station or custody suite. Here, they are assessed by a clinician and mental health practitioner. Using the police stations as a ???place of safety??™ has occurred much criticism from health authorities. The chaotic environment can lead to an individual??™s mental state worsening or cause them to feel criminalised. However, argument against this is that around 50% of Section 136 detainees are offenders at the time of arrest. (Webb 1999). Another criticism is that it can lead to overcrowding of the cells and instead, assessment suites should be established where the mentally ill can receive the suitable social care. Yet, there is no funding or guidance to change places of safety from police stations and hospitals feel inadequately equipped to detain (Durcan 2008). Furthermore, mental health circumstances have proven to have a major negative impact when concerning police misconduct. An investigation by the IPCC discovered that 50% of deaths in police custody are of people with some form of mental health problem. (www.publications.parliament.uk). Thus, strengthening the argument that police custody suites are not always suitable.
Regarding the ways in which police manage situations involving mental health, the depth of their training within this area must be questioned. They use a large amount of discretion when determining how to deal with a person with a mental illness. Nevertheless, statutory law limits this discretion, for instance in the case of a major crime. (Lamb 2002). There are also a number of factors that suggest why the police chose to arrest individuals with potential mental health issues committing minor crimes, rather than taking them to a hospital or healthcare unit. Firstly, the mental illness may not be obvious straight away. Again, this could be resolved by more efficient police training and more involvement from community services. This is proposed by Home Office (2008) where they state, closer engagement between the police and local statutory and voluntary services within communities presents opportunity to engage with people experiencing mental distress at an early stage and to avoid the default use of Section 136. Another factor that may cause police to arrest is that if the individual seems to be intoxicated and/or is acting violent. In these cases, it is deemed necessary to detain the individual as a matter of public safety, where they can be psychologically analysed by a professional in custody and the further appropriate action can be taken. The demand of police time when dealing with mental health has a significant impact on the service and can prove problematic. This is supported by Weinburger 2002 stating, there can be long waiting periods for psychiatric services during which police cannot attend to other duties. However, this demand of time could be decreased if there was an increased role of the third sector i.e. healthcare associations, and a drive to improve. The National Offender Management Service (2004) suggested that efforts should be focused on the most effective rehabilitation programmes, including those that improve communication and cognitive skills.
In conclusion, the impact of mental health on the police service is fairly significant, although facilities, training and sector cohesion is vital in order to reduce the negative effects that surround the police when dealing with mental illness.
Fig 1. (Gottesman 1991)
Fig 2. (www.nmhct.nhs.uk)
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