Saturday, June 10, 2017

HYPNOSIS: ORIGINS, DEVELOPMENT, AND CONTROVERSIES

Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness that is characterized by intense absorption with internal experience and a voluntary suspension of normal awareness. It is a trance that is induced by another person, often referred to as a hypnotist. It also involves high levels of suggestibility, which is believed to enable the hypnotist influence voluntary and involuntary behavior in the person who is in the hypnotic state.
There has always been an element of mystery and enigma associated with hypnotism. Hypnosis has often been talked about in ancient myths and folklore, and has been associated with magic spells, which a person uses to control the mind of others. It is this aspect of hypnosis that makes it a part of occultism, which also has made it a matter of skepticism.     
Hypnosis, used in its current form is associated with the Scottish surgeon James Braid. He gave the term neurohypnology and wrote a book on it in 1843. He was also known to be the person to use the terms hypnotism and hypnotist. Neurohypnology was then shortened to the term hypnosis. Due the significance of Braid in the usage of hypnosis in its current form, he is often considered the first genuine hypnotherapist or the founder of hypnotherapy and the father of modern hypnosis.
Franz Anton Mesmer
Even though Braid is regarded as the first genuine hypnotherapist, the roots of hypnosis can be traced back to the 18th century German physician, Franz Mesmer. He later established himself in Vienna and then in Paris. Mesmer was a strong believer in the theory of animal magnetism. He theorized that there was a natural energetic transference that occurred between all animated and inanimate objects and called it animal magnetism.
He believed that each individual or any other animate object has an invisible natural force or a magnetic force field. This magnetic force field influences the bodily functioning of the individual. For a healthy person, according to Mesmer, the force field is evenly distributed. But it is unevenly distributed for someone who is unhealthy.
Mesmer believed that he could use magnets (mineral magnetism) to evenly distribute the force field and thus cure the diseases of any person. After successfully using magnets to cure people, he began to use his own hands (animal magnetism) to cure them. Mesmer used to touch the body parts of his patients by magnets or his own hands and in doing so, he would cure his patients.
After being highly successful, Mesmer, in 1788, opened a clinic in Paris. He began to treat patients of hysteria, individually as well as in groups. He used the same techniques that he used in Vienna. His treatment involved patients of hysteria sitting in a darkened room, with soft music playing in the background. Mesmer, being dressed like wizard, then entered the room holding a stick in his hand that had a magnet attached to it. Mesmer used to mostly touch the effected part of the body of his patients by his hands, and sometimes by the stick with a magnet. Miraculously, the hysteria patients used to get cured by this. This led to Mesmer becoming very popular. His method of treatment came to be known as mesmerism.
Even though Mesmer became highly popular and his treatment was very effective, skeptics were not ready to believe him. After investigating the matter, they felt Mesmer’s method was unscientific and the treatment to be a mere imagination. Mesmer was considered to be a fraud and a charlatan, and was banned from practicing his method of treatment. Eventually, Mesmer faded away into obscurity.
Years later, further investigations into mesmerism revealed that instead of animal magnetism, Mesmer actually created a trance-like situation that also involved a lot of suggestibility. The induced trance made the patients of hysteria susceptible to suggestibility, which helped in the patients being cured. What Mesmer believed to be animal magnetism, was actually artificially created trance coupled with suggestibility. Later, modifications in mesmerism were made, eventually being known as hypnosis. Mesmer, thus, came to be known as the first person to use hypnosis, although it was not the kind of hypnosis that began to be used in modern times.
Marquis de Puysegur
One such person who made modifications in mesmerism was Marquis de Puysegur. He was a member of the Society for Harmony, a group that promoted animal magnetism. Puysegur discovered that artificially creating a peaceful, sleep-like scenario could induce trance in people. He named this situation as artificial somnambulism. He found this artificially induced sleep-like situation as an effective therapeutic technique.
Puysegur discovered that during this sleep-like situation, individuals are highly susceptible to suggestions. He found that people would follow instructions such as laughing, crying, or dancing. In the somnambulistic state, due to suggestibility, they believed that they could feel no pain, or they could feel sensation in parts of the body that are paralyzed. He also found that, people did not remember anything during the trance state, after they come out of it. In all, what Puysegur had found is almost what is known about hypnotism in today’s time.
Puysegur modified mesmerism and renamed it as artificial somnambulism, which was almost like the hypnotism practiced in today’s time. However, the person who gave hypnotism credibility and made it acceptable in the mainstream is the Scottish surgeon, James Braid.
Braid was initially skeptical about any trance inducing or artificial sleep-like situation. He was highly intrigued by the possibilities, and after extensive investigation, which involved a lot of experimentation, he changed his views. He believed that a trance situation could be created, but not in the ways in which Mesmer used to do it.
James Braid
Unlike Mesmer, Braid induced trance by asking individuals to focus their attention on illuminated objects like a candle flame or small mirrors that were held at different distances from the face. This prolonged concentration, according to Braid, caused physical exhaustion, which made them susceptible to suggestibility. Any resulting change in behavior was explained by suggestibility, and not by any kind of magnetic field, as was believed by Mesmer.
Braid, thus, gave a proper scientific explanation for the induced trance, which made it acceptable in the field of medicine. A key feature discovered by Braid is that people have greater sensory awareness during the induced trance, for instance a person displaying an extremely high ability in hearing as compared to normal consciousness. He also found that during the trance, autonomic bodily processes can be controlled to a great degree. These findings were important to further establish it in the medical field.
Braid named this induced trance situation as neurypnology (meaning nervous sleep), which was also the title of his book published in the year 1843. In the book he described 25 different cases in which he used neurypnology to treat varied conditions such as pain in the spinal cord, stroke, paralysis, headache, and sensory impairment. He later changed the name from neurypnology to neurohypnology (taken from Hypnos, the Greek God of sleep). This was later shortened to hypnosis.
The efforts of Braid made neurohypnology (later named as hypnosis) as a subject of scientific research and a valid clinical technique that can be used for treating various medical conditions. He thus, came to be known as the first genuine hypnotherapist. He defined neurohypnology as “a peculiar condition of the nervous system, induced by a fixed and abstracted attention of the mental and visual eye, on one object, not of an exciting nature”.
Auguste-Ambroise Liebeault
Braid might have given hypnosis credibility, but it became popular due to the developments that took place in France. The French physician Auguste Ambroise Liebeault was convinced about the effectiveness of hypnosis. Liebeault believed that all mental disorders, especially hysteria, can be treated by hypnosis. Very soon he successfully began treating many patients of hysteria and other disorders by hypnosis.
Liebeault began gaining a lot of popularity and his perspectives gradually began to develop into a school. In 1866, he established the suggestion-centered school of psychotherapy. Because Liebeault practiced near the city of Nancy, France, it came to known as the Nancy School. It was only during this time when the term hypnosis began to be used.
The Nancy School attracted many scholars and physicians. One of them was the physician Hippolyte-Marie Bernheim. At Nancy, Liebeault had been treating patients of hysteria successfully by simply hypnotizing them and telling them that their symptoms will be gone when they will be awakened. Bernheim was persuaded, and after that both of them began working as a team. Bernheim also became the spokesperson of the Nancy School.
Hyppolyte-Marie Bernheim
Bernheim believed that everyone was susceptible to suggestibility, and that some are more susceptible than the others. According to Bernheim, the more susceptible to suggestibility the easier it is to hypnotize that person. This susceptibility to suggestibility and hypnosis, later, came to be known as the trait of hypnotiziability. In treating patients successfully with hypnosis, Liebeault and Bernheim together helped establish the idea that hysteria and other mental disorders have psychological causes.
During the same time, the famous French physician and neurologist, Jean Martin Charcot, was also using hypnosis on hysteria patients very successfully. Charcot was working at the La Salpêtrière hospital at Paris. He, however, differed in his views about hysteria and hypnosis. He believed hysteria to be a neurological disorder and hypnosis to be a clinical feature of it. Unlike Liebeault and Berheim, he did not think that everybody can be hypnotized or that hypnosis can be used to treat hysteria and other mental disorders.
Jean-Martin Charcot
Because Charcot believed hypnosis to be a clinical feature of hysteria, he felt that only hysterics can be hypnotized. He believed that hypnosis can be used to induce the symptoms of hysteria on hysterical patients, and thus used hypnosis only as a way of studying hysteria. He never felt of it to be as a treatment of hysteria. He was very efficient in hypnotizing patients, often demonstrating it for students.
The difference in perspective on the causes of hysteria and the usage of hypnosis between Charcot and his school of thought and the Nancy School led to a huge heated debate between the two. This is considered to be one of the earliest academic debates in psychology. Eventually, the Nancy school was triumphant over Charcot. The Nancy School, thus, became an important landmark in firmly establishing hypnosis as a method of treatment of mental disorders.
Even though Braid gave hypnosis scientific credibility and acceptance, and the Nancy school made it widely popular, over the years, hypnosis has always been associated with skepticism, uncertainty, and controversies. The heated debate on the use of hypnosis between Charcot and the Nancy School was just the beginning when it came to controversies associated with hypnosis.
One person who very openly claimed his reservations with hypnosis was Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and arguably the most well-known psychologist of the 20th century. Freud, early in his career, realized that many of his patients were actually suffering from hysteria. In 1885, he therefore, went to Charcot to study hypnosis.
After returning to Vienna, Freud found hypnosis to be not very effective. The reasons for this, according to Freud, were that everyone cannot be easily hypnotized, and that individuals deny what they have said or done in the hypnotic state. He also suggested that hypnosis may lead to the emergence of others problems.
The reasons for the ineffectiveness of hypnosis have been corroborated by researches done later on. Specifically, extensive research has been done on Freud’s claims of other problems coming into existence due to hypnosis.
A lot of research has been done on the concept of iatrogenesis. Iatrogensis refers to adverse effects or complications that may occur due to a medical treatment. It has also been found to be caused sometimes by psychotherapy.
A number of clinicians and researchers have claimed that dissociative identity disorder (DID), earlier known as multiple personality disorder is actually an iatrogenic condition. DID is a severe mental disorder in which an individual develops two or more relatively enduring identities or dissociated personalities. These identities occur in the individual alternately (that is why the identities are also referred as alters), displaying completely distinct behavior patterns, in which the individual is unable to recall anything that has taken place during the emergence any one of the alters.
The occurrence of DID has been very rare, which is what made clinicians feel that is an iatrogenic condition rather than a disorder. There has been compelling evidence that DID is caused by suggestion-based psychotherapy such as hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
The trance state during hypnosis makes individuals highly susceptible to suggestibility. In such a state, when the therapist asks some leading questions about another thought process or behavior pattern, it tends to induce DID. Such questions or instructions in a hypnotic state, which involves extremely high suggestibility, lead to the emergence of other alters.
Hypnosis is often used to discover presumed alters. The therapists sometimes try to reify the existence of alternate identities and thus, validating their existence. The patients’ constantly reifying and attending to alternate personalities adventitiously reinforces multiplicity.
Many studies have also shown that hypnotized patients show greater frequencies of alternate personalities as compared to non-hypnotized patients. Additionally, it has been found that therapists using hypnosis are more likely to diagnose patients with DID, which has been regarded to be as consistent with iatrogensis. Hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, therefore, has often been found to induce and facilitate the symptoms of DID.
Apart from facilitating the symptoms of DID, hypnosis has also been found to be one of the major causes of false memory syndrome. False memory syndrome is the condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered on the memory of a traumatic event that has not taken place and is objectively false. The person’s life in a way is guided by the memory of an event or events that have never taken place. The false memory is so deeply ingrained in the individual that it orients his/her entire personality and lifestyle, leading to disruption in adaptive behavior.
There have been a number of individuals who have reported of being sexually abused in their childhood, but investigation did not reveal any forensic evidences. Likewise, a lot of people have reported of having paranormal experiences, with further investigation showing that none of such things have ever happened. Despite these events and experiences not taking place in reality, these people strongly believed in the occurrence of these events.
Research shows that some people develop such kinds of strong beliefs after going through hypnotic therapy. Hypnotic therapy involves recovery of lost memories – memories that have been repressed (pushed into the unconscious that is beyond conscious awareness), due to being traumatic. The idea behind this is that once those lost traumatic memories are recovered, they will help the patient to overcome the psychological problems that he/she has been experiencing.
Clinicians claim that this recovery of lost memories during hypnosis is not accurate. Sometimes, inadvertently, the therapist might implant false memories within the patient. The high susceptibility to suggestibility makes the individual under hypnosis believe things that have never occurred in the life of the person.
It has been found that the therapist due to suggestibility leads the person to believe such things. In the hypnotic state the person often says certain things that may be in his/her subconscious; something that he/she might have read somewhere or something that might have occurred with someone else. The therapist reacts based on these responses, and due to high suggestibility influences the person to believe that those events have occurred in his/her life. This then becomes strongly ingrained into the memory of that individual, leading him/her to develop false memory syndrome.
Many of such paranormal experiences like alien abduction, reincarnation, or encountering ghosts have been found to be actually a result of false memory syndrome that has been caused by hypnotic therapy. Therefore, instead of treating an individual from existing problems, hypnosis may actually lead to the development of newer problems like DID and false memory syndrome.
Over the years, despite the contributions of Braid and later the Nancy School in giving it hypnosis scientific validity, it has still not got that credibility. The basic nature of hypnosis has not been able to dissociate it from occultism. Even though it has been used as a clinical method, both in terms of treatment and research, the idea of hypnosis is still strongly associated with the element of mystery and magic.
Apart from being a clinical method, hypnosis, has often been used for entertainment purposes. A trance being induced making a person follow all kinds of instructions draws good viewership. It has become a kind of magic show that people enjoy. Skeptics also have strong doubts about the very reality of hypnosis, often claiming it to be a make-believe act that has no truth in it. All these controversies and skepticism associated with hypnosis has made clinicians and experts not to consider it in mainstream psychology and psychotherapy.
The controversies associated with hypnosis certainly raise questions over its credibility. However, the significance of the discovery of hypnosis cannot be denied. It was the discovery of hypnosis that led to the idea that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The causes of mental disorders are broadly categorized as somatogenic and psychogenic – somatogenic are biological causes and psychogenic are psychological causes.
The origins of the psychogenic causes of mental disorders are linked with Franz Mesmer. It was Mesmer’s method of treatment, mesmerism, which later developed into hypnosis, that for the first time led to the belief that mental disorders can have a psychological cause. The significance of hypnosis can be further exemplified in that it was this belief that made it possible to get rid of the superstitions associated with mental disorders, which was that all mental disorders are caused by being possessed by demons and ghosts.
Further, even though hypnosis has been plagued by alleged claims of ineffectiveness in terms of DID and false memory syndrome, in today’s time it has been found to very useful in the treatment of specific problems like anxiety, headaches, chronic pain, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This shows that hypnosis has not lost all of its credibility and is indeed effective with respect to some specific psychological problems.
Finally, hypnosis not yet completely being accepted as a part of mainstream psychology and still being associated with occultism has added to its intrigue, leading to a lot of curiosity. It has always been a subject matter of fascination. It may have its skeptics, but its skepticism has only increased its popularity among the masses and has made people wanting to know more and more about it.

This article can also be found on the blog, History Of Psychology

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: SELF-MONITORING



Self-monitoring is the monitoring of behavior in social situations. It refers to individual differences in the ability and motivation to regulate expressive behaviors.  It is the regulation of behavior with respect to social and interpersonal interactions. Thus, self-monitoring is about how individuals respond to others and the extent to which they engage in expressive control.
There are individual differences in self-monitoring. People are either high on self-monitoring or low on self-monitoring. High self-monitors act according to the appropriateness of the situation. They are concerned about how others will perceive them in a specific situation and mold their behavior accordingly. Their behavior also varies with the kind of people that they interact with. Therefore, high self-monitors may be highly responsive to social and interpersonal cues, with respect to the appropriateness of the situation.
In contrast, low self-monitors show a lot lesser concern for situational appropriateness. They do not indulge in behaviors that appear situationally appropriate. Rather than molding and maneuvering their behavior, they show more consistency in their behavior in varying situations and with different types of individuals. Instead of being highly responsive to situational cues, low self-monitors behave according to their inner beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and dispositions.
High and low self-monitoring is also associated with different types of interaction patterns. People who are high on self-monitoring choose their friendships and acquaintanceships based on shared activities. Their bonding with others depends on how well they are suited to the particular activity. They like spending time with only those people who are relevant to the concerned activity.
People who are low on self-monitoring, on the other hand, choose their friendships and acquaintanceships based on emotional bonds. They like to spend time with people whom they like, irrespective of the activity.
Consequently, the social world of high self-monitors differs from that of low self-monitors. The social world of high self-monitors is very compartmentalized, with different individuals (friends, acquaintances) linked with different specific activities. Whereas the social world of low self-monitors is less uncategorized, with individuals not necessarily related to specific activities.
With respect to growth in intimacy and interconnectedness, low self-monitors take more time as compared to high self-monitors. Low self-monitors, generally, prefer to take time in establishing a stronger emotional bond with others. High self-monitors are able to connect well with others with relative ease.
High and low self-monitors also differ in terms of romantic behavior and sexuality. High self-monitors have been found to choose a romantic partner, largely, on the basis of physical appearance. Low self-monitors give more emphasis to inner qualities. High self-monitors, also, are likely to have more romantic and sexual partners as compared low self-monitors.
Further, low self-monitors are likely to be more satisfied in their relationships with others. Research suggests that low self-monitors are concerned with the inner qualities of any relationship, such as shared values, and are lesser focused on the external aspects of relationships. This allows them to be themselves with others, and thus be more satisfied.
High self-monitors, in contrast, are more concerned and preoccupied with the external aspects of individuals and relationships, such as physical appearance or prestige associated with the relationship. This allows them to act as per the expectations of the roles. They tend to derive esteem from others, whereas low self-monitors base their relationships on the basis of authenticity and trust.
Therefore, self-monitoring – individual differences in the regulation of expressive behavior – plays a strong role in determining interpersonal interactions. Individuals, depending on being either high or low on self-monitoring, can differ with respect to how they interact with others and how they develop social and emotional connectedness with others.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: INTROVERSION-EXTRAVERSION



People may differ among each other in terms of introversion and extraversion. Introverts like to keep to themselves; they are self-involved, restraint, and at times highly sensitive. They have a tendency to turn inwards and explore their feelings and experiences. Extraverts, on the other hand, are energetic, enthusiastic, and impulsive. They are more externally oriented.
A major way in which individuals differ in terms of introversion and extraversion is their biological structure. Introverts have high brain activity, which makes them highly aroused, especially in socially stimulating situations. In contrast, extraverts have low level brain activity, which gives them a high threshold for stimulation and effortful in being aroused.
This level of brain arousal plays an important role in the activities of introverts and extraverts, including the nature of their interpersonal interactions. Introverts, being easily aroused, can find it discomforting to be in highly socially stimulating situations for too much of time. This is why they prefer to keep to themselves or have few interpersonal interactions.
It is not that introverts do not like to interact with others; they just find too much of interactions to be draining out their energy. This is why even when introverts do interact with people, they prefer to have few meaningful interactions that involve deep conversations rather than having a shallow talk.
In contrast, extraverts, due to having a low level brain arousal, always have the need to be stimulated. This leads to them to being highly energetic and wanting to be out with a lot of people. Unlike introverts, they always like to interact in groups. For them, being alone is not stimulating enough, which is why they require to be with a group of friends or associates.
As mentioned above, introverts not interacting with many people does always not mean that they do not like it. They get mentally and physically drained out, and due to this, at times they prefer to avoid social interactions. This does not also mean that they lack in social or interpersonal skills. Being involved in interpersonal interactions is more of a choice for introverts, rather than a lack in any kind of skills.
Introverts, in fact, can be very adept in social and interpersonal skills. A major aspect of any kind of interpersonal interaction is empathy. Research suggests that introverts are highly empathic. Introverts, due to their physiological structure, are more introspective, which makes them more self-aware. Being self-aware makes them more comfortable within themselves, which in turn, makes them more observant and thus, more conscious of others’ needs.
The high brain arousal of introverts also makes them very sensitive. They can easily pick up subtle cues from their surroundings such as slight changes in mood, emotional reactions, or body posture, of others. They use these subtle cues and react accordingly in interpersonal interactions.
There can, however, be a downside to this high sensitivity. Introverts, due to being highly sensitive, often get easily hurt by others. This becomes a deterrent for them to be involved in future interactions. An inherent discomfort in social situations coupled with a possibility of being hurt and embarrassed, increases the likelihood of avoiding being in too many interactions.
It is largely due to this that introverts prefer to interact only with few people. They like to spend more time with likeminded people, with whom they can talk on topics that they are interested in, and with who they can be themselves. This is why, even though they may prefer to interact with few people, their interactions are deep and their relationships are more long lasting.
If introverts are drained out by having too many interactions, extraverts derive their energy levels from these interactions. They, in a way, thrive on having many interpersonal interactions.
For extraverts, more than deep interactions, varied interactions become important. They feel like being with many people, and being excited and enthusiastic comes easily to them. This tends to make them more likeable among others as they can easily create a fun-filled environment and be entertaining for others.  
Being able to interact with many people enables them to have a large social network, giving them an increased sense of social support that turns out to be very comforting for them.
Extraverts being highly energetic around people are quite the opposite of what introverts can be. Introverts are highly restrained in their body language and expressions. When meeting people, even though they may be excited and really happy, they might just give a simple smile. This can be interpreted as not being interested or a lack of enthusiasm, but it is actually not the case.
Such instances prove to be advantageous for extraverts as they are very expressive and can easily reflect enthusiasm and excitement. They are not at all restrained in their emotional expression, which works very well for them in terms of interpersonal interactions. However, this unrestrained emotional expression can be a problem for shy extraverts.
There is a myth that extraverts are always bold and cannot be shy. Shyness is a temperament, which is associated with the amygdala – the brain area responsible for the fight and flight responses, and also known as the seat of emotions. A sensitive amygdala interprets regular situations, including normal social interactions, as fearful and anxiety arousing, causing the person to avoid it.
An extravert, that is, a person with low brain arousal leading him/her to be outgoing and seeking out social interactions, but at the same time having a sensitive amygdala that makes him/her avoid social situations, can turn out to be very problematic. Shy extraverts, thus, can face difficulties when it comes to interpersonal interactions. Over the years, they need to somehow learn to strike a balance between the two contradictions.

On the whole, individual differences with respect to introversion and extraversion have a strong influence on the nature of interpersonal interactions. Both introverts and extraverts like to interact with people, and find it beneficial, but they have their own ways of having such interactions.

Friday, February 24, 2017

INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS

It is widely accepted in the realms of psychology and life in general, that healthy and satisfying interpersonal interactions are beneficial for individuals. Positive interpersonal interactions have been found to be fruitful for both mental and physical health. They also play a significant role in self-concept development and growth of personality.

Even though good interpersonal interactions have positive consequences on the individual, it is not always that people may necessarily have many of such interactions. The nature of interpersonal interactions is largely determined by various characteristics/features that people have leading to individual differences.

These individual differences determine whether the person gets into few or many interpersonal interactions. For instance, some may not require to have too many interpersonal interactions and that their intimacy needs might get fulfilled by having only few meaningful interpersonal interactions.

It also determines the quality of such interactions that an individual may have, in terms of the ability of having satisfying interactions or mostly ending up having poor interpersonal interactions.

This series is about such individual differences and how they may determine individuals’ nature of interpersonal interactions. The series will be emphasizing on individual differences with respect to personality traits, explanatory styles, social motives, interaction patterns, and even brain structure.



INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: INTROVERSION-EXTRAVERSION
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AND INTERPERSONAL INTERACTIONS: SELF-MONITORING

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

URBANISM: ISSUES AND CONCERNS

Urban areas are said to be developed settlements that constitute a fast paced lifestyle and are directly exposed to globalization and social and cultural change. It is generally characterized as a place that has a high density of population, a complex division of labor, advancement of technology, high mobility, individualism, and impersonality in social relationships, collectively referred by the term urbanism. Urbanism is a social-cultural-economic phenomenon, which represents a way of life. It has a wide range of consequences on human nature, in terms of needs, emotions, experiences, and behavior in general. 

In urban areas people are generally achievement oriented and have a consumerist attitude. In such instances relationships often take a backseat and become neglected, which affect the nature of those relationships. 

The idea of relationships has also been changing over the years. Families are breaking down into smaller units, and people are marrying late in life or prefer to stay single. Marrying late or the decision to remain unmarried has led to the rise of one person households (OPH), in which an individual prefers to live alone at a house. The perspectives about living alone are slightly changing and it is now not necessarily seen in a negative manner. People are gradually looking beyond the negative stereotypes of living a life by oneself. Recent research also suggests that aloneness has positive aspects associated with it, such as being more perceptive, self-fulfilment, and having greater purpose in life 

Further, there is a rise in live-in relationships and part-time live-in relationships. People’s beliefs about traditional notions of relationships are changing. People being more involved in their work and focusing on career development has led to a change in perspective towards marriage. There is more of an acceptance of remaining unmarried. Due to this people prefer alternatives to marriage like living together without being married. 

In the same regard, because of being more work and career oriented, people also prefer to go a step beyond live-in relationships. They prefer to be in a part-time live-in relationship, which means staying together during weekends or off-days, and then getting back with their own lives, the rest of the time.

With respect to interpersonal relationships in general, urbanism gives rise to the issue of loneliness. Being highly self-involved, with limited interpersonal interaction, there is a likelihood of the feeling of emptiness and with an unfulfilled need for intimacy and self-expression. Additionally, interpersonal processes such as empathy and relationship quality become important.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why people have turned to the cyberspace. The fast paced life of urban areas coupled with advancement in technology has led individuals to be spending more and more time on the internet. 

Many of the social networking sites have reduced distances between people. Individuals can easily be in touch with their family and friends who are in another city. It helps them to have interactions with their loved ones, which may not always be possible.

The internet also becomes a medium for self-expression, for individuals who otherwise may be too self-involved due to the lifestyle they become accustomed to in urban areas. Specifically, things like blogging and microblogging helps a lot in sharing experiences and expressing views about various issues. In many ways, interaction on the internet helps to fulfil the needs for intimacy and self-expression.

This has been more prominent in introverts and people experiencing loneliness and social anxiety. Such individuals have a heightened need for self-expression and have often been found to use the internet for fulfilment of this need. The characteristics of such individuals like high level of social stimulation, social skills deficits, and hesitancy for face-to-face (f2f) communication allow them to be more comfortable on the internet rather than being involved in f2f interactions. 

Further, the characteristics of online interaction such as heightened private sense of self-awareness, reduced public sense of self-awareness, and deindividuation enable such individuals to be involved in more intimate self-disclosure as compared to f2f communication. 

On the other hand, however, spending too much time on the internet leads to hyperactivity, lack of focus and concentration, and gives rise to issues like mindfulness or a lack of it. It also leads to issues like online disinhibition effect, cyber-trolling, and cyberbullying, which cannot be ignored, especially when it comes to the youth.

During online interaction, when an individual’s communication gets inhibited, due to lack of social cues, then it is referred to as online disinhibition effect. The brain areas associated with social interactions (called the social brain) do not function properly during online interaction, which makes individuals behave or react in ways that may be different from f2f interaction. Sending angry or hateful messages immediately, without thinking, is one such example.

The social brain of adolescents are not highly developed, which makes them highly vulnerable to online disinhibition effect. In the long run, the individual becomes emotionally numb and completely lacks in empathy. Further, online disinhibition effect turns out to be one of the factors that may lead individuals to indulge into cybertrolling and cyberbullying as well as becoming a victim of it.

Adolescents, especially, tend to get seriously affected by being trolled and bullied on the internet. It may lead them to feel humiliated, develop low self-esteem and inferiority complex, and may even lead them to commit suicide.

Apart from the many issues related to online interaction, in urban areas, the youth in today’s time, face a large number of problems and challenges. In the age of globalization and economic and technological development, it is the youth that are the most affected.

The fast paced urban lifestyle can often become too demanding for adolescents and young adults, which may cause emotional vulnerability and instability. They become highly susceptible to stress. If not given proper care, it may lead individuals towards substance abuse and erratic behavior, including erratic sexuality.

The person may face a number of problems associated with relationships, which may include disruptive familial relationships as well as problematic romantic relationships. The consequences of such issues might be low self-esteem, depression, chronic loneliness, stress, anxiety, and suicidality.

The transitional phase of adolescence often tends to be highly confusing for the individual. Confusion may arise not just regarding decisions about relationships, but even educational and career choices. A wrong step can prove to be fatal, leading to a lack of purpose, being directionless, lack of meaningfulness, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and a sense of failure. 

Regarding this, an awareness of individual differences among each other is of utmost importance. In order to cope with the competitive lifestyle of urban areas, individuals must be aware of their unique strengths and weaknesses, which they can utilize appropriately. It is this awareness that enables individuals to identify their true potential, choose their goals in life, and move towards the direction of positive mental health. Individual differences can be reflected in terms of skills, abilities, traits, coping strategies, and so on.

An awareness and acknowledgement of individual differences develops a sense of uniqueness among the individual. The person gets the realization that he/she is a unique entity and that social comparisons may be misleading. It helps in understanding the true sense of happiness and success, develops self-efficacy, self-determination, self-competence, and gives purpose in life. 

With the changing of times, especially in urban areas, the traditional gender roles have been going through a transformation. People have started looking beyond the gender stereotypes, though in a more subtle manner. Men are seen to have a sensitive side and not necessarily tough and outspoken, and women are now seen to be as bold and not necessarily coy. Likewise, men are not necessarily seen as the sole bread earner and women are not necessarily expected to be a homemaker. Women are also being seen as career-oriented and ambitious. 

On the other hand, men are seen as taking part in household chores and being more participative in the upbringing of a child, something that was not considered very masculine-like earlier. In recent times, there has been more of an egalitarian relationship and an equal division of labor among husbands and wives, and partners.

The rise in cross-sex friendships (friendship between a male and female) has also played a role in the changing of gender roles. The lifestyle in urban areas has provided opportunities for more male-female interactions that are beyond the gender-based schema, which is viewing non-kin interactions with the opposite-sex as romantic in nature.

It is quite normal and very much acceptable for a male-female interaction to be non-romantic and just platonic. The idea of a male and female being friends just like any friendship between people of the same sex has helped in breaking many of the gender stereotypes. It has helped in individuals getting the other gender perspective and also getting an insider’s view of the opposite sex. It has also led to healthy interactions between the opposite sex, which involve expressing physical attraction and being flirtatious in a more acceptable and less hesitant manner. 

The changing gender roles and stereotypes have given rise to concepts like the metro-sexual man and the alpha female. The metro-sexual man is someone who likes spending time on grooming and shopping, shows interest in fashion, has no qualms in being sensitive, and on the whole does not really believe in the traditional gender roles. 

The alpha female, unlike the traditional beliefs associated with women in general, is someone who is strong, confident, independent, dominating, and outspoken. She is also highly career oriented, very ambitious, and does not really believe in relying on man to be her support system. 

Apart from the changing gender roles, people are also becoming more aware and comfortable about issues related to different sexual orientations, sexual identity crisis, and other LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) issues. There has been a growing acceptance towards homosexual relationships. Homosexuality is no longer seen as something that is unusual and quite a few people are coming out in the open and accepting and willing to talk about having a homosexual orientation. 

The changing gender roles, in urban areas, are also bringing about changes in the workplace. The proportion of female employees in corporate sectors is on the rise. Females are willing to work at late hours as well being at higher positions. There are a lot more mangers, leaders, and CEOs that are females. The idea of gender-specific jobs is becoming obsolete. More of females are getting into jobs related to engineering and information technology. Likewise, more of males are getting into jobs related to teaching, social work, and counselling.

Along with the gender-specific changes, the workplace in urban areas is going through other changes as well. Due to the rise of multinational companies (MNCs), there is more of a multi-cultural environment, in the workplace, with people from different cultures working together.

Further, in order to cope effectively with the competitive work environment, in urban areas, there has been a lot of emphasis on social and emotional skills of employees, in the past decade or so. Employees, especially in corporates, are expected to be emotionally intelligent and not just having good technical skills. Research has suggested that being high on emotional intelligence is a major factor in organizational success.

Additionally, in the workplace, there is a change in the perception of individuals. There has been a growing awareness about introversion and how introverts can be successful in the workplace, which was not considered earlier. Introverts being empathetic, sensitive, perceptive, and far-sighted are now considered as effective leaders, which was not the same earlier. Thus, there has been a significant change in the work environment, in the past few years.

On the whole, urbanism, which represents a way of life in urban settings, has raised a number of issues and concerns. It has changed the nature of relationships and patterns of interpersonal communication. It has raised concerns over youth behavior and mental health. Further, to quite an extent, it has helped in bringing about a change in gender stereotypes and raised awareness over issues of gender and sexuality. Finally, it has also brought about significant changes in the work environment and the workplace culture.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

PERSONALITY, FALSE MEMORIES, AND FALSE MEMORY SYNDROME

The recollection of an event that has not occurred is said to be a false memory. When the belief in these false memories become so strong that it deeply affects the individual’s identity and relationships, then it is said to be a false memory syndrome.

False memories have known to be a very common phenomenon. In everyday life, people often have distorted memories that they actually believe to be true. In criminal trials, many a times, eyewitness testimonies are based on false memories created due to misleading information. The cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has even created false memories in experimental conditions.

Even though false memories are very common, false memory syndrome is suggested to be quite rare. The cognitive psychologist John Kihlstrom describes false memory syndrome as a condition in which a person’s identity and interpersonal relationships are centered around a memory of traumatic experience, which is objectively false but yet the person strongly believes in it. The syndrome, according to Kihlstrom, may be diagnosed when the memory is so deeply ingrained that it orients the entire personality and lifestyle of the individual, leading to disruption in all kinds of adaptive behavior.

The concept of false memory syndrome emerged in the early and mid- 1990s. A number of young girls had filed complaints against either their father or a close relative for sexually abusing them during their childhood. It was found later that there was no physical evidence regarding their complaint. A further investigation revealed that their claims of being sexually abused in their childhood were actually false memories that were implanted during therapy involving recovered memories.

In a number of cases, it has been found that false memories occur due to suggestion based therapies like hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, which involves recovery of lost memories. Hypnosis is a state of consciousness that is characterized by intense absorption with internal experience and a voluntary suspension of normal awareness of outside stimuli. In this dissociated state of focused awareness, it is possible to influence voluntary and involuntary behavior through suggestion. During such therapeutic sessions, a therapist, if not highly competent, leads the individual to believe something that may not be true. 

These suggestions by the therapist are based on the responses of the individual, while being under hypnosis. It has often been found that such responses have no relation with their own life experiences, but may in fact be something related to another person’s life or something that they have read in popular media.

Hypnosis or hypnotic therapy, in fact, has been found to be one the major factors leading to the development of false memory syndrome. The recovered memories that people believe to have after hypnosis, are often something that comes out during the therapy due to its highly suggestive nature; it has nothing to do with any event of the individual’s life. Hypnotic therapy, at times, has been found to make people falsely believe in paranormal experiences and reincarnation. 

If hypnosis is one of the major causes of false memory syndrome, then the personality trait of hypnotizability becomes associated with false memory syndrome. Hypnotizability is the hypnotic susceptibility of an individual or the extent to which an individual can experience hypnosis.

Hypnotizability is a stable trait. Research suggests there are individual differences in hypnotizability with people varying from low to high levels of hypnotizability. Among the general population about 15 to 20 percent of people are said to be high on hypnotizability.

Hypnotizability seems to be affected by childhood experiences of normal dissociation and is found to be stable through adulthood. The characteristics associated with high levels of hypnotizability are positive constructive day dreaming, use of vivid imagery, greater intensity of affect, and longer durations of alpha brain waves. 

False memory syndrome generally occurs due to hypnosis. Therefore, it can be argued that a high level of hypnotizability – being highly susceptible to hypnosis – is associated with false memory syndrome.

People high on hypnotizability are also highly imaginative to the extent that they become deeply involved in the ongoing fantasy activity of hypnotic induction. This aspect of being high on hypnotizability also makes such people prone to false memory syndrome as it makes them tend to believe events that have never occurred.

The tendency to believe in fantasies and being involved in excessive day dreaming are also characteristics of the trait of fantasy proneness, which has been found to have a strong association with false memory syndrome. 

The personality characteristic of fantasy proneness has been the focus of research in false memory syndrome. People high on fantasy proneness are known for their profound fantasy lives. Such people spend a lot of time in fantasizing. They have a lot of difficulty in differentiated between the real and imagined life. Many a times, when they report their fantasies, they feel as if they are reporting real events.

Fantasy proneness has been found to be associated with false memories of being sexually assaulted and pregnancies. It has also been found to be associated to a wide range of paranormal experiences such as alien abduction, out of body experiences, and sightings of ghosts or spirits.

There is also a strong association between fantasy proneness and hypnotizability. People high on fantasy proneness are highly susceptible to hypnosis. This association of fantasy proneness with hypnotizability also makes it prone to false memory syndrome.

Apart from hypnotizability and fantasy proneness, in some instances, extreme levels of the traits of openness to experience and neuroticism have been found to be associated with false memory syndrome. Openness to experience includes many facets such as curiosity, creativity, preference for variety, and being highly imaginative. Neuroticism is about the emotional stability or instability of an individual. It includes anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, loneliness, etc. Specifically, neuroticism with respect to psychopathology has been found to be associated with false memory syndrome.

False memory syndrome is a rare phenomenon. It is not yet recognized by classification systems like Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) and International Classification of Diseases (ICD). However, there has been a lot of research on false memory syndrome in the field of parapsychology – the field of psychology concerned with the scientific investigation of paranormal and psychic phenomenon. The personality traits of hypnotizability and fantasy proneness, and to some extent extreme levels of openness to experience and neuroticism have been found to be associated with false memory syndrome.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF ARCHITECTURE

Architecture refers to the style, character, design, and structure of a building. Built structures or buildings are not mere constituents of brick, stone, wood, etc. A deeper examination of a building, especially its architecture is associated with various psychological aspects. 

One of the most salient features of architecture is that it reflects culture and cultural identity. The architectural style represents the characteristics of a place, region, and country; it is said to be the representation of people and societies. Architecture suggestibly is strongly associated with the culture, values, and behavior patterns of the society. The architectural style of a particular period is a reflection of the culture of that time.

The architecture of any place reflects its history and heritage. It reflects the identity of civilizations that thrived in the past. It is a demonstration of their socio-political and cultural forces. It is the physical expression of ancestral culture, philosophy, and lifestyle.

Further, architecture displays the relation of the past with the present. It enables an understanding of the present as a factor of the past. It traces the history of a nation and it shapes its cultural identity. 

Architecture is thus, a manifestation of history, identity, culture, tradition, society and civilization, philosophy, as well as insights and knowledge of the community as a whole. Examples of specific architectural styles that reflect culture and society are the European architecture, Indo-Islamic architecture, Ancient Indian architecture, Central Asian architecture, and so on.

An intriguing feature of architecture is that it depicts a meaning system or semantics. The semantics represented in architecture is rooted in ideology and philosophy of society and culture, which together form shared meanings. These shared meanings are represented in symbols in architecture, with different symbols having different meanings.

The architectural theorist, Rapoport, suggests three levels of semantics reflected in architecture. The three levels are ideological or high level meanings, social or middle level meanings, and behavioral or low level meanings.

High level meanings are about cosmologies, cultural schemata, and philosophical ideas. The middle level meanings are about reflecting wealth, power, and status. The low level meanings are expected behaviors associated with architecture. These different levels may vary across different cultures and different periods of time. 

Along with reflection of culture and display of semantics, architecture, the style in which buildings are designed, has been found to have an influence on mental and physical health of people. This aspect of architecture is associated with social design or social design research, in which architects collaborate with social scientists to design a building that best serves the requirements and desires of individuals.

A great amount of research suggests that social design can play a significant role in healthcare environments. Architects with making significant changes in buildings has been found to have a positive influence on patients’ satisfaction, quality of life, sleeping patterns, and anger management.

Research suggests that designing spaces in such a way in which patients get good enough privacy is beneficial for health. Further, designing places in such a way that gives them an outside view helps in recovery, especially a daylight view. Additionally, designing places in a way that gives them access to nature and outdoors has been found to be therapeutic. 

Also, giving patients a comfort and controllability in movement, and having distinguishable demarcations for public and private spaces reduces stress levels. Finally, changing interiors, in the sense of using a wide range of colors, textures, and art, including paintings, has a positive effect on the health of patients.

Research, further, suggests that making subtle changes in hospitals and psychiatric centers such as shaded lightings, a home-like environment, and designing the surroundings as per the requirements of the inhabitants, have led to better conditions in patients of multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, delinquents, and psychotics. A similar approach has been found to be beneficial even for classrooms, offices, and public buildings.

Specific aspects of architecture like stimulation and coherence have also been found to be related to stress, even in non-patients. Stimulation is the amount of information in a setting, which is related to complexity, novelty, intensity, and variety. Too much stimulation such as complex patterns or extremely bright colors, in the interiors of a building, can be puzzling, and thus, stressful. Coherence is clarity and comprehensibility of the elements of a building. If there is incoherence, that is, there are ambiguous cues, disorganized patterns, and difficulty in predictions, then it leads to stress.

This aspect of architecture being related to mental and physical health is something that people are not very much aware of. It goes to show that architecture is not just an aspect of art and culture, but it can be something that is very beneficial for human beings. Designing buildings keeping in view the requirements and general health of individuals provides a very unique and intriguing aspect of architecture. 

A very fascinating aspect of architecture is that it can be associated with the unconscious. The unconscious or the unconscious mind, according to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, is the reservoir of thoughts, feelings, and memories that are not accessible to conscious awareness and yet influences behavior.

The design of a building developed by the architect is derived by many contributing factors. These contributing factors may be the experience and imagination of the architect, which may be an expression of the unconscious. Even though vague in nature, this aspect of architecture is not completely unfathomable.

The unconscious also plays a role in architecture in the form of changes in mood and responses. Architecture that is meant to visually stir individuals may affect them in terms of other senses as well. The responses due to the non-visual senses, such as an echo of steps, can address individuals unconsciously. 

Research suggests that the non-visual senses in the surroundings in an architectural piece, such as smell or sound, tend to affect the unconscious and plays a role in change in responses and mood. Even though being quite complex, this aspect of architecture is very fascinating and arouses a lot of curiosity. 

The design and structure of a building, therefore, has a number of psychological aspects. It can be associated with cultural heritage, meaning systems, mental and physical health, and the unconscious. Architecture, as mentioned above, is not simply about art or being a visual marvel, it is in fact something beyond the usual and the expected.

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