Abnormal Psychology

The Research Studies related to the Abnormal Psychology.
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Seligman – Learned Helplessness Dog Study (Depression)
[A] Prove that Learned Helplessness can lead to depression.
  • A dog was trapped in an enclosed area where the floor was lined with electrodes.
  • The experimenter would activate the electrode once in a while.
  • The dog would jump over a low wall to the other side of the enclosed area where no electrodes were on the floor.
  • The experimenter raised the wall slowly until it was too high for the dog to jump over.
  • Then after a few trials, the experimenter lowered the wall again.
  • The dog gave the high wall a few attempts.
  • But after knowing that it is impossible to jump across, the dog gave up and let itself get electrocuted.
  • When the walls were lowered again, the dog did not attempt to jump across.
  • The dog learnt that he is incapable of jumping across.
  • Learn that its are helpless therefore lowering its self esteem.
  • Low in ecological validity, lab experiment.
  • Controlled, no confounding variable.
  • Animal experiment can provide insight into human behaviour.
  • Unethical, participants did not have rights to withdraw.
  • Induced fear and depression into participants.

Rosenhan – On being sane in insane places (I)
[A] Challenge the reliability and validity of diagnosis.
Investigate the effects of labeling.
  • Eight participants, 5 male and 3 female, attempted to gain admittance in the hospital’s psychiatric ward.
  • Participants phoned up the hospital for a diagnosis appointment.
  • They all used a fake name and job (to protect their future health and employment record <- ethical considerations).
  • All the participants claimed that they were hearing voices.
  • These are existential symptoms which arise from concerns about how meaningless your life is.
  • They were chosen because there were no mention of existential psychosis in the literature.
  • After admitted into the psychiatric ward, they stopped showing the pseudo-symptoms and acted like they would ordinarily.
  • Participants started making notes about their life and the way the were treated in the ward.
  • Initially, they had to write in secret because they are scared wardens might find out.
  • Afterwards, they realized no one cared so they did it more publicly.
  • Participants asked the staffs for a favor that tested the behaviour of staff towards patients, which took the following form:
  • ‘Pardon me, Mr/Mrs/Dr X, could you tell me when I will be presented at the staff meeting?’. (or ‘…when am I likely to be discharged?’)
  • Similar procedure was carried out with Students at Stanford University with students asking university staff a simple question.
  • Results were used to compare.
  • All pseudo-patients disliked the environment and wanted to be discharged immediately.
  • All participants were “diagnosed” with schizophrenia.
  • No staff suspected their sanity.
  • Patients in the ward, however, did suspect the sanity of some of them, and reacted vigorously.
  • For example: ‘You’re not crazy. You’re a journalist, or a professor. You’re checking up on the hospital’.
  • Patients were deprived of almost all human rights e.g. privacy
  • Medical records were not kept confidential
  • Hygiene was poor
  • Wardens would be brutal to patients when no other warden was around
  • Indicates that patients had no credibility, but wardens do.
  • Time spent with nurses, psychiatrist etc. averaged under 7 minutes per day.
  • There is an enormous overlap in the behaviours of the sane and the insane.
  • We all feel depressed sometimes, have moods, become angry and so forth.
  • But in the context of a psychiatric hospital, these everyday human experiences and behaviours were interpreted as pathological.
  • Regarding the favor asked, most pseudo patients were ignored. where as all questions were addressed in the Stanford University experiment.
  • Experience of hospitalisation for the pseudo patients was one of depersonalisation and powerlessness.
  • Field experiment/covert observation, high ecological validity.
  • Can argue that experiment is low in ecological validity, psychiatrist don’t usually diagnose “pseudo-patients”.
  • It is expected that the person will have some sort of disorder if they seek diagnosis.
  • Psychiatrists would normally play safe in their diagnosis.
  • Because there is always an outcry when a patient is let out of psychiatric care and gets into trouble.
  • Always a higher likelihood of diagnosing a normal person sick than a sick person normal.
  • DSM-II was in used then, an updated version of the DSM (DSM-IV) used now has more sophisticated descriptions for diagnosis.
  • Showed that patients suffering from psychological disorders experienced.
  • Labeling and stigmatization
  • Depersonalisation
  • Discrimination
  • Controversial study.
  • Deception was involved, unethical.

Rosenhan – On being sane in insane places (II)
[A] Follow up study for Rosenhan – On being sane in insane places (I)
  • Falsely inform psychiatric institute that were aware of the first study that during the next three months one or more pseudo patients would attempt to be admitted into their hospital.
  • Staff members were asked to rate on a 10-point scale each new patient as to the likelihood of them being a pseudo patient.
  • No pseudo patients were sent.
  • 193 patients were judged
  • 41 were confidently identified as a pseudo patient by at least one member of staff
  • 23 were suspected as pseudo patients by a psychiatrist
  • 19 were suspected by a psychiatrist and a member of staff
  • Rosenhan claims that the study demonstrates that psychiatrists cannot reliably tell the difference between people who are sane and those who are insane.
  • The main experiment (I) illustrated a failure to detect sanity, and the secondary study (II) demonstrated a failure to detect insanity.
  • Everything a patient does is interpreted in accordance with the diagnostic label once it has been applied.
  • The result of labeling/stigmatization
  • Should focus on individual’s specific problems regarding behaviour rather than their sanity.
  • Deception was involved, unethical.
  • Research was done at the cost of misdiagnosis of patients with actual mental disorders.

Lewinsohn et al (2001)
  • Studied adolescents who experienced many negative life events over a 12 month period.
  • Those who had strongly negative attributions at the start of the study were much more likely to develop major depression.
  • Diathesis Stress Model (Events from the environment)

Brown & Harris – Social origins of depression in women
[A] Find out the social origins of depression in women.
  • Studied women who received hospital treatment for depression.
  • Sampled 458 women in the general population aged between 18 to 65.
  • 82% of those who became depressed had recently experienced severe life changing event(s).
  • 33% experienced severe life changing event(s) in the non-depressed group.
  • 23% percent working class women became depressed within the past year.
  • 3% in the middle class.
  • Those with a young children were at higher risk of becoming depressed.
  • Life events that resembled previous experiences were more likely to trigger depression.
  • Relatively big sample group, representable of the general population, results can be generalised.
  • Cultural factors were not taken into consideration.

Prince – Depression in Africa and Asia
Study brief
  • Study claims that there were no signs of depression in Africa and parts of Asia.
  • Reported depression rose with westernization in colonial countries.
  • Researchers argue that depression is not exactly the same globally.
  • Depression may be expressed differently and may escape the attention of people from different cultures.
  • Asian and African countries tend to be more collectivist.
  • People from collectivist society might not report depression since it might affect others in the social network.

Teuting – Depression and Serotonin study
  • Individuals with depression were asked to provide urine sample.
  • There was a significantly lower level of Serotonin in the urine sample of participants with depression.
  • Result of MAO breaking down the Serotonin, correlating to the participant’s depression.

Genetics studies grid
Researcher Research for # of pairs Subjects Concordance rate
Price Bipolar depression 97 MZ twins Reared together 68%
Reared apart 67%
119 DZ twins 23%
Allen Unipolar depression - MZ twins 40%
- DZ twins 11%
Bertelsen, Harvald and Hauge Unipolar depression - MZ twins 80%
- DZ twins 16%
McGuffin et al. Unipolar depression 117 MZ twins 40%
DZ twins 20%
Gershon Unipolar depression - First degree relative
  • Individuals with a first degree relative with depression was about two to three times higher than in the general population.
  • Social learning theory might be a possible explanation.
Wender Unipolar depression - Adopted children Adopted children who went on to develop depression had biological parents that were eight times more likely to have depression than their adoptive parents.

Cooper et al. – New York London Diagnosis
  • An identical video clip of a patient was shown to psychiatrists from New York and London.
  • Psychiatrists from New York had a higher likelihood of diagnosing schizophrenia.
  • Psychiatrists from London were more likely to diagnose mania or depression.

Beck – Psychiatrists agreement
  • Agreement between two psychiatrists on diagnosis for 153 patients was 54%.
  • The was due to the vagueness in criteria for diagnosis and;
  • The different process for diagnosis.

Erinosho &amp Ayonrinde – Nigeria Yoruba Tribe study
[A] Investigate the cultural differences in criteria of normality and abnormality.
  • Participants were tribesmen from the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria.
  • Information of patients with schizophrenia were presented to people of the Yoruba Tribe.
  • Only 40% of the tribesmen from the Yoruba tribe identified the patients as mentally ill.
  • 30% of the tribesmen said they would marry such person.
  • This maybe due to the cultural differences between the tribesmen and the westernized world (see Binitie’s study).
  • Shows the importance of an emic approach in studies.
  • The ability to identify the definition of “abnormality” in different cultures can only be done in culture specific approach in studies.

Binitie – Schizophrenia in Nigeria
[A] Investigate the cultural differences in criteria of normality and abnormality.
  • Participants were Nigerians living in the city.
  • Information of patients with schizophrenia were presented to the participants.
  • Most participants correctly identified the patients as mentally ill.
  • 31% showed aggressive response to such patients e.g. suggesting that they should be expelled or shot.
  • Shows how western culture has influenced the judgement of normality (compared with Yoruba tribe study).

McKeon and Murray – OCD prevalence
Description Relatives of OCD patients were more likely than the rest of the population to suffer from anxiety disorders in general, but no more likely to suffer specifically from OCD.

Baxter et al. – Caudate Nucleus and OCD
[A] Observe the differences in brain function in patients with OCD before and after successful treatment.
  • PET scanning was used to identify active areas of the brain.
  • The right Caudate Nucleus became more active in patients after treatment.
  • There is a correlation between the activity of the Caudate Nucleus and OCD.

Sullivan – Factors Related to OCD
[A] Examining the relation between academic majors/minors of college students, birth order, gender, level of stress, locus of control and the amount of obsessive-compulsive (OC) behaviors.
  • All participants were selected through convenience sampling.
  • A sample of 75 undergraduate students was surveyed.
  • 51 females, 24 males
  • 46 students with science/business majors/minors
  • 26 students with liberal arts/humanities majors/minors
  • 30 first born or only children
  • 43 standing lower in the birth order
  • Questionnaires assessing OC behavior using a 1-7 Likert scale were administered to participants.
  • Questions were based on the Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale (Y-BOCS), including 26 questions measuring obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
  • Relationships between the different demographics and OC behaviour were determined using a t-test or a Pearson Correlation.
  • Results supports the following hypothesis:
  • Females reporting more OC behaviors.
  • Participants with greater stress level reporting more OC behaviors.
  • Results do not support the following hypothesis:
  • First born and only children reporting more OC behaviors.
  • Students with external locus of control reporting more OC behaviors.
  • Difference in the amount of OC behaviors among students in Science majors/minors vs. Liberal Arts/humanities majors/minors.
  • Greater stress level means higher level of anxiety.
  • Prevalence of OC behaviour in this demographic can arguably be a response to sooth the high anxiety level.
  • Corresponds to previous studies (Bogetto et al., 1999).
  • Most demographics chosen were not equally sampled, and this sample size is not representative of the population.

Temerline – Authority on diagnosis
[A] Investigate the effect of authority on diagnosis.
  • 2 groups of participants listened to the same taped interview of a person describing their own life.
  • The person talked about a seemingly normal life (i.e. happy marriage, enjoyment at work).
  • A respected figure in psychiatry then told 1 group of participants that he thinks the man was psychologically health.
  • He told the other group that he thinks the person was a psychotic.
  • Participants were then asked to judge the person’s mental health.
  • Those who were told the participants were normal gave a “normal” diagnostic.
  • Those who were told that the participant was a psychotic agreed with that diagnosis.
  • Shows that someone with authority and expertise can have stung influence on the way people are perceived.
  • The story of the taped person was hypothetical.
  • Might have gave a different response if the person was physically present.
  • Difficult to gather information about real-life roles and interactions between psychiatrists and patients.
  • May break ethical guidelines (Privacy and Confidentiality).
  • Opinions on causes and treatment may differ between psychiatrists.