What does our behaviour tell us?

American psychologist Stanley Milgram carried out many studies overtime in which findings reveal the true nature of individuals within society. So, what are we really like?

Lets begin with experiments which reveal how honest and helpful members of society can be. In 1965 Milgram et al carried out a study which consisted of placing stamped, addressed letters around in a street in order to see who would be kind enough to post them. There were two categories of letters; some addressed to ‘Associates of Medical Research’ and others addressed to ‘Friends of the Communist/Nazi Party’. In total only 95% of the letters were passed on- 70% for the medical associates and 25% for the political party. Not only does this measure the helpfulness of society, but also it measures their opinions. Due to 95% of the letters being sent by random members of the public, this indicates that individuals can be very helpful yet, with only 25% of those letters being passed of to the Natzi party, this would suggest that certain individuals hold a strong negative opinion of that particular party.

Furthermore, in order to understand how helpful members of society can be, Milgram introduced the lost child experiment. Would we ever fail to help a lost child? With the aid of some 6-10 year old children, Milgram conducted his next study. The children were sent off onto the streets in America accompanied by an observer should their safety be at risk, and were asked to stop the first person to walk by for help, explaining that they were lost and needed to call home. Within cities, individuals were surprisingly very unhelpful, a total of 46% offered to help the child. Other members of society ignored the child or swerved around in order to avoid them. Even more shockingly, one individual explained to the child that their mother was waiting for them in some random restaurant nearby, just so that they did not have to deal with the lost child. On the other hand, within towns, individuals were much more helpful and showed sympathy to the lost child- a total of 72% of the public offered their help.

These results suggest that the behaviour of those living in cities is very negative and unhelpful, this shows as they could not take time out of their busy lives to help a lost child. If anything, I would have believed that members of the public would be more helpful to a lost child within a city due to the fact that busy cities would be very scary and intimidating to a small child and they would have less of a chance of finding their parents on their own compared to a smaller town.

What do you think about it? Do you think these studies represent the true nature of individuals within society?


We’ve all got them, but how do they form?…

HABITS are present in most individuals whether good, bad or very annoying! But how do these habits form? And just how long does it take for them to develop?

Positive habits which individuals may be interested to adjust to could be taking up some form of daily exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables or drinking more water. However, the length of time in which this new activity takes to become an automatic action is arguably very difficult to decide upon.

Lally et al (2009) found that on average, after 66 days, participants’ became accustomed to their new activity and at this point found that their behaviour had become as automatic as it could be. It was also noted from this study that smaller changes within an individuals’ lifestyle (such as drinking more water) would feel more automatic after fewer days compared to a larger change, such as completing 30 minutes of physical activity everyday (Lally et al, 2009). Yet, that appears to be quite obvious. This study therefore suggests that habits can take up to 2 months to form if they are major lifestyle changes or significantly less time (around 20 days) if only minor.

So could these findings suggest that bad habits could take a similar time to be reversed?

I believe undesirable habits such as biting fingernails could be harder to break and would take much longer to reverse compared to developing a more positive habit. This is because certain factors such as: the length of time the habit has been carried out and the frequency of the habit are very important. For example, if a person had bitten their fingernails on many occasions, everyday since they were young, I believe it would be very difficult to reverse the habit and would therefore take much longer than 2 months to overcome.


Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C., Potts, H., Wardle, J. 2009. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009. DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.674


Changes within our development- gradual or abrupt?

We all go through changes as we develop throughout our lives, but have you ever considered whether these changes happen over time or at sudden intervals? While reading about developmental psychology, I came across the continuity/discontinuity issue. This is an on-going debate among psychologists regarding whether changes within our development are continuous (quantitative) or discontinuous (qualitative).

Continuity theorists believe that human development is a gradual, addictive process which continuously occurs without any abrupt changes. Generally, these theorists hold the view that the nature of the changes in our development are quantitative which means that they change in amounts. An example of a quantitative change would be that children grow taller each year- they grow a certain amount of inches overtime.

On the other hand, discontinuity theorists hold the view that development progresses over several stages of change which occur suddenly, bringing the child to a greater developed level of functioning. According to these theorists, qualitative changes occur within human development meaning that these particular changes introduce a significant difference to the child every time they occur. An example of this could be the language ability acquired in the stage between an infant and a toddler.

I agree with the views of continuity theorists as I believe it makes more logical sense for a child to keep progressing continuously throughout their lives, as opposed to developing skills and abilities in big chunks throughout life. This is because children develop certain skills and abilities such as interaction and language through experience therefore it seems more sensible to assume that a child would gain and develop as a person as they continuously experience new interactions.

What do you think? Does human development progress gradually though experience or do we develop and change in different abrupt stages in life?

The effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy

My previous blog entry introduced Creative Arts Therapies, in particular, Dance Movement Therapy and explained how expressive movements could improve clients’ psychological issues and well-being.

But how effective is Dance Movement Therapy?

I have recently researched into the effectiveness of DMT and findings suggest that it could be very beneficial for many types of people with varying illnesses- ranging from adolescents with mild depression (Jeong et al, 2005) to improving the quality of life for women recovering from cancer (Sandel et al, 2005). Erwin-Grabner et al (1999) researched the effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy on reducing test anxiety. Twenty-one university students volunteered to take part in the study and were asked to complete a Test Attitude Inventory (TAI) prior to the study (measure of test anxiety). Participants assigned to the experimental group took part in four 35 minute dance/movement sessions over a two week period which was structured around exam-like situations. After the movement sessions the control group and the experimental group were asked to re-take the TAI in order for the researchers to compare the results. The findings showed that the experimental group of participants demonstrated a significantly greater reduction in TAI score in comparison to the control group suggesting that Dance Movement Therapy may be an effective method of reducing test anxiety levels.

Furthermore, a study carried out by Lundy and McGuffin (2005) investigated the effectiveness of DMT alongside therapeutic holding. Although quite ineffective, therapeutic holding is frequently used as a way of controlling aggressive behaviour in children, despite that it carries physical and emotional risks. Research was therefore carried out by Lundy and McGuffin in order to find out whether a Creative Arts Therapy like Dance Movement Therapy could be used alongside therapeutic holding as a way of reducing the associated risks.  In order to carry out this research, the staff of a residential treatment centre volunteered to participate in a DMT training workshop which integrated the movement techniques with therapeutic holding. Children also participated in the study through self-report.  Lundy and McGuffin’s 2005 study found that using Dance Movement Therapy alongside therapeutic holding reduced the threat of trauma to adults, however, they insist further research into this integration of therapies would prove beneficial in order to make therapeutic holding safer for children too.

There are many research findings which suggest that Dance Movement Therapy is an effective therapy, however, whether or not it is more effective than physiological treatments is debatable. Perhaps, such as in the study of Lundy and McGuffin (2005), DMT works more efficiently alongside other treatments.


Erwin-Grabner, T., Goodill, S. W., Hill, E. S., Neida, K. V. (1999). Effectiveness of Dance/Movement Therapy on Reducing Test Anxiety. Retrieved from: http://www.springerlink.com/content/x5470033n2vq2gq6/

Lundy, H., & McGuffin, P. (2005) Using Dance/Movement Therapy to Augment the Effectiveness of Therapeutic Holding with Children. Journal of child and adolescent psychiatric nursing, 3, 135-145. DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6171.2005.00023.x


Dance Movement Therapy

Creative Arts Therapies involve using all aspects of the creative arts in order to promote more positive emotional behaviours. There are five creative arts therapies: Art Therapy, Dance Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, Poetry Therapy and Music Therapy.

Dance Movement Therapy (DMT) can be described as an expressive version of Psychotherapy in which clients are encouraged to perform spontaneous dance movements within a group, on the basis that their minds and bodies are interrelated. Through movement, clients can reflect their thoughts and emotions and by understanding and supporting their clients, therapists can encourage the development of more positive feelings, in turn, promoting a solution to their psychological problem.

The following five part video lead by Leif Tellmann will give you an overall more in-depth understanding of DMT with some examples of what may take place in a Dance Movement Therapy session:

Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMJeoJQCOug

Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2aUjDdDNJE&feature=related

Part Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmcEeOKEKgQ&feature=related

Part Four:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij3sO33Ch0s&feature=related

Part Five: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNeKJ3OqYXA&feature=related

Dance Movement Therapy seems to be effective for a wide range of clients from those with psychological disorders to cancer patients and even those suffering from psychological trauma. 

So, do you think Creative Arts Treatments such as DMT are more beneficial for clients compared to the more conventional treatments available?

In next weeks’ blog I will aim to evaluate the effectiveness of Dance Movement Therapy in order to find out whether alternative psychological treatments, such as Creative Arts Treatments are more effective compared to physiological treatments.



The relationship between gender and colour differences

I have always associated the colour pink with girls and the colour blue with boys, yet I have never asked myself why? This week I’ve decided to blog about Hurlbert & Ling’s (2007) study which investigated the influence of gender on preferred colour.

The title of the journal article for this study seemed to imply that there were biological explanations for why different genders prefer different colours, yet, did not precisely capture the essence of the actual study. Through using 208 participants: 179 British (79 male), 37 Chinese participants (19 male), Hurlbert & Ling (2007) devised computer-based tasks which aimed to monitor the participant’s preference towards colours. Both males and females were found to prefer contrasts of the colour blue, however, results showed females also seemed to have a higher preference for contrasts of the colour red. The study however, did not include any measurements of biology and therefore, the title seemed a little inaccurate- a title which stated that a culture difference was found seems more appropriate for this study.

On the other hand, the headline and conclusions drawn in the news report imply that Hurlbert & Ling’s (2007) study came to a definite conclusion that boys ‘really do’ prefer blue and girls prefer pink, yet, this is not entirely true.  Although the news report includes a decent summary of the study, including greater details of cultural differences found, the conclusions drawn are greatly simplified compared to the journal article. I believe the news report provides a clear, additional explanation of the findings found in the journal article which is written in a more understandable manner, however, I do suggest that the two articles should be read together in order to provide a full understanding of Hurlbert & Ling’s (2007) study. 

Do dreams have any real meaning for us?

Dreams are mental activities which occur when we sleep. Everybody has them, although we may not always remember them. The question is, do our dreams actually mean anything to us? The two main theories of why we dream are psychological theories and neurobiological theories.

Psychological theories offer an explanation of the meaning behind our dreams. Freud (1900) produced a psychoanalytic theory which suggested that the unconscious mind expresses itself via dreams and so, as a result of this, the content of a person’s dream can uncover their unconscious thoughts. One reason to suggest why we dream is due to the need to repress our unconscious mind. Our primary-process thought (irrational unconscious thought- the id) is unacceptable to the conscious mind and so must be relegated to our dreams (repression). Therefore, without dreaming, levels of unconscious thoughts would become intolerable and would threaten our sanity. Another meaning dreams have for us is to fulifl our wishes. Freud thought that the reason for dreaming was to fulfil our wishes which could not be satisfied within the conscious mind. Dreams therefore allow us to complete wish fulfilment while protecting us from the content (primary-process thought). Furthermore, Freud believed that the content of our dreams is represented through symbols. Through dreamwork, the latent content is converted into a more discrete form known as manifest content. Dreamwork therefore carries out symbolism which replaces ideas or actions with symbols while we sleep.

On the other hand, the neurobiological theory provides that the experience of a dream is an epiphenomenon, in other words, a by-product of neurobiological processes within the brain. The majority of dreams take place in conjuction with rapid eye movements; therefore, they are said to occur during REM sleep (taking up 20-25% of total sleep period). Hobson and McCarley (1997) proposed that the neurobiological activity associated with REM sleep can account for what we experience as dreams. During REM sleep, the brainstem generates random signals that are indistinguishable from external stimuli. During the synthesis part of the process, dreams are produced. This happens when electrical signals from the brainstem (activation) reach the prefrontal cortex in the brain, essentially, these areas in the brain try to make sense of stimuli which is recieved. Electrical signals are mixed with images from our memory which is the reason why our dreams are often bizarre. Hobson (1988) stated that the dreams we experience, according to the neurobiological theory, have no inherent meaning yet they may hold meaning to the dreamer due to the fact that they are derived from our memories. Thereofore, the activation-synthesis hypothesis assumes that the dreams we experience are as meaningful as they can be, taking into the account that they are generated by random impulses.

Many reserchers have argued in favour of each of these theories, making it difficult to decide on the greatest approach. Zhang (2005) suggested that a combination of the two theories provides the best explanation of the nature of our dreams, therefore the continual-activation theory was proposed by Zhang offering a bridge between both of the approaches. Zhang states that the brain must remain constantly active. Activity levels drop during sleep and once this happens, the continual-activation mechanism is triggered in order to generate a stream of data (similar to activation). As well as this, other activities occur during sleep at the same time; data is transferred from temporary to long-term memory, and the unconcious mind processes memory. Zhang believed this aspect of the theory possibly fits with Freud’s psychoanalytic theory.

In my opinion, I believe Zhang’s theory of continual-activation may be the best approach to explaining the nature of dreams, what do you think?


Nathalie :]

Are criminals born or made?

An understanding of criminal behaviour has been attempted by psychologists through many different theories. The three theories I will discuss are: the biological theory, the psychological theory and the social theory of crime. Each theory provides a thorough explanation of why people carry out criminal behaviour, however, which theory offers the better explanation? Are criminals born or made?

The biological theory of crime suggests that it is very likely that biological factors play a significant role in criminality due to the fact that criminal behaviour tends to run in families. Adoption studies provide psychologists with the information required in order for them to discover whether criminal behaviour patterns are the result of the child’s genes or their surrounding environment. For example, if a child’s behaviour resembles that of their adoptive parents then this could suggest that criminality is a product of the environment. Mednick et al. (1987) studied the criminal convictions of over 14,000 people who had been adopted and found greater evidence to suggest that biology had more influence over their behaviour. To further support this theory, Bohman (1996) replicated Mednick at al’s study by comparing the percentages of sons with a biological parent with a criminal record to boys with an adoptive parent with a criminal record. Bohman also found that genetic factors were more significant compared to environmental influences.

The psychological theory of crime suggests that negative expectations cause certain individuals to behave towards others in a criminal way because their stereotypes alter their social interactions (self-fulfilling prophecy). This theory was supported by Jahoda’s (1954) study of names. Jahoda studied Ashanti people who give boys ‘soul names’ when they are born which supposedly alters their characters. For example, boys born on a Wednesday are called ‘Kwaku’ and are expected to behave in an aggressive, violent way. Jahoda discovered that 13.5% of boys referred to court had ‘Wednesday’ names, yet they were responsible for 22% of violent crime. This implies that expectations of the boy’s behaviours due to stereotypes caused differential treatment and therefore they fulfilled the expectations caused by their names.

The social theory of crime suggests that learning occurs when an individual (the learner) observes and copies another person (the model). Motivation to reproduce what the learner has observed from the model must be internal or external. Internal motivation may come from identification with the model, or external motivation can be obtained from direct or vicarious reinforcement. Children with criminal parents or who have other surrounding role models are very likely to be internally or externally motivated to copy behaviour, i.e. carry out criminal acts. Evidence to support this theory can be found using correlational data about exposure to media models and criminal acts. Eron et al. (1972) discovered a positive correlation between the violence level in television programmes watched by 7-8 years olds and their level of aggression. This violence was shown to progress (especially within males) as they became older.

In my opinion, all three theories provide a valid approach and each are supported through evidence. I do not believe that one theory provides a significantly better argument than others, therefore, a combination (if possible) of each of the three theories would perhaps provide a more thorough answer to why people participate in criminal behaviour.

Feel free to present your argument/opinion below!

Thank you for reading, Nathalie :] 



What really drives people to take part in psychological research studies? Is this significant?

I recently participated in a research study involving DNA and genetics in order to see the effects of genetic variants on behaviour and brain activity.

Despite the fact that I was aware the researcher paid participants to be a part of their study that was not the initial reason why I decided to volunteer. I’ve always been interested in the relationship between genetics and behaviour and I wanted to be a part of the study in order to gain more knowledge of what the researcher was trying to find out, and how the results from the study could be used to gain information about how somebody behaves based on their performance in certain tasks.

After participating in the study I had the opportunity to ask the researcher further questions. I was curious as to how many participants had taken part so far and the amount of data they required before the analysis could take place. I found out that I was participant number 320, despite the fact that plenty more people had responded to the advertisement of the study, not all of them met the criteria of the study and so had failed to become a participant. Even though the criteria of the study were clearly stated on the advertisement, many people that did not meet the criteria attempted to participate regardless. What I found interesting though was the fact that the researcher still paid them as advertised despite not participating at all, in order to reimburse them for their time. Similarly participants have a right to withdraw from a study at any time without needing to provide a reason, if so, the participant would still receive the full amount of money despite not contributing to the data.  However, is it fair that they are still rewarded for not contributing to the research findings?

From this, I decided in this week’s blog, to see whether people believe the drive to participation is significant? Would a participant behave differently throughout a study if all they are interested in is the money at the end of it?

I believe there would be a difference of performance if you compared results from people who had an interest in the area to people who are uninterested in the study, but very interested in the money. If people are only seeking the rewards (money) and do not care for the study itself, does this then become similar to operant conditioning, were performance is based on reward? One way to overcome this is for a study not to advertise a reward (and give the participant money after the study has taken place).

I think it would be very interesting to compare the response rate of a psychological study advertising for participants which did not state a reward (where willing participants would have a genuine interest in the subject) to the response rate of the same study advertising for participants and stating a reward (money, for example). Response rates could then be compared and then following on from that, a comparison of the results could take place. We would then be able to see whether the drive to participation is significant and whether the participants behave differently throughout a study if they do not believe they are being rewarded for their time and efforts, or vice versa.

Thank you for reading, feel free to comment!

Nathalie :]

Is eyewitness testimony always accurate?

Loftus and Palmer (1974) carried out a study involving the interaction between language and memory which concerned how accurate eyewitness testimony (EWT)  is and the problems leading questions can bring. Loftus and Palmer showed participants short film clips of car accidents and measured the effect of the use of different verbs (such as ‘collided’, ‘contacted’ or ‘smashed’) when participants were asked about the speed of the cars involved in the accidents. For further details about this study follow the link: http://www.simplypsychology.org/loftus-palmer.html

But, what other factors contribute to the unreliability of EWT? Are eyewitness testimonies always accurate?

There are many factors which can affect the reliability of EWT such as face recognition, the role of emotion and reconstructive memory.  Facial recognition is certainly an obvious issue when it comes to a person having to give an eyewitness account of a situation. Research has found that hair style and outline of the face are the two most important factors when trying to recall the features of a face unfamiliar to us, but internal features like eyes, for example were more important for the recognition of a familiar face (Ellis et al, 1979). Further research carried out by Buckhout (1974) supports the suggestion that eyewitnesses are not particularly good at identifying possible criminals, as when a purse-theft was staged, and two line-ups were conducted in order to challenge the recall of 52 witnesses- only seven of  the participants identified the thief on both of the occasions. This suggests therefore that eyewitness testimonies are not always accurate due to evidence of a low recall ability of witnesses.

The role of emotion also plays a significant part in affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony due to the fact that crimes are often frightening to a witness, even more so if the criminal has a weapon. This could even reduce or improve recall, either by focusing the attention of the witness or distracting them. Loftus et al (1987) introduced the ‘weapon effect’, this suggests that once a weapon is seen by a witness, their attention is drawn to it as it is a very frightening experience therefore distracting the witness from the criminals appearance, reducing the accuracy of the EWT. Supporting evidence of the weapon effect is demonstrated in a study carried out by Johnson and Scott (1978). During this study some participants, ‘while awaiting on an experiment to begin’,  witnessed a male carrying a knife covered in blood while others saw a male carrying a pen covered in grease. The participants in the first group who witnessed a knife covered in blood were less accurate in their eyewitness testimony, showing that a frightening situation can effect a witnesses’ recall- the weapon effect.

Furthermore, reconstructive memory is also an issue when trying to recall detail. This idea was first produced by Sir Frederick Bartlett in his book entitled ‘Remembering’ (1932). Bartlett suggested that we store certain pieces of information and when it comes to trying to recall something, we reconstruct these pieces of information into a ‘meaningful whole’. This therefore results in an eyewitness testimony to become inaccurate because other experiences shape the way we reconstruct our memory, so if our memory is incomplete we will fill it with other pieces of irrelevant information from a previous experience.

All of these factors affect the accuracy of an eyewitness testimony and poses the question of whether a recall of memory can ever be accurate?

In my opinion I do not believe this is possible due to the fact that there are too many barriers to overcome in order to produce an accurate account of any past experience. In the way of an eyewitness testimony, this can lead to unfortunate consequences for the police when trying to investigate an incident or in an attempt to catch a criminal. Therefore,  it could be argued that eyewitness accounts are not helpful to the police at all due to too many inaccuracies.

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment/discuss!

Nathalie :]