individual differences approach n.
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  2. We are not all the same.. • Lots of research looks at the “typical” or “average” person • But what about unusual people? • Psychologists of individual differences study what makes people DIFFERENT

  3. What makes us unique? • PERSONAL QUALITIES • Personality • Intelligence • Moral values • Mental health • GROUP IDENTITIES • Race • Culture • Gender

  4. Personality 1 • In the Middle Ages, people were grouped by their “humours” • (mentioned in Shakespeare) • Humours = magical fluids that run through the body • Sanguine personalities had too much blood: they were OUTGOING & EXCITABLE

  5. Personality 2 • In the 20th century, WILLIAM SHELDON proposed idea of “somatotypes” • Somatotypes = body shapes • ENDOMORPHS  sociable • ECTOMORPHS  solitary • MESOMORPHS  risk-taking, dominant

  6. Personality 3 • Modern psychology is more interested in personality TRAITS • Traits = DISPOSITIONS we all share, but to varying degrees • The BIG FIVE • 1. Extraversion (outgoing) • 2. Neuroticism (moody) • 3. Agreeableness (nice) • 4. Conscientiousness (dependable) • 5. Openness to experience (flexible/imaginative)

  7. Measuring Personality 1 • Self-reports • PSYCHOMETRIC TESTS • Questionnaires that give a SCORE to your mental characteristics • Eg personality quiz • Most famous is the EYSENCK PERSONALITY QUESTIONNAIRE (1975) • Measures Extraversion & Neuroticism

  8. Measuring Personality 2 • PROJECTIVE TESTS • Activity which asks the respondent to be creative • Interprets hidden meaning in their response • Herman Rorschach created inkblot test • What can you see in the blot?

  9. Criticising Personality • Social psychologists say SITUATIONS are more important than dispositions • Behaviourists say personality is just a set of BEHAVIOURS we have learned • Is there a PERSONALITY that stays the same in all situations? • Can we have MULTIPLE PERSONALITIES?

  10. EXPLANATIONS OF BEHAVIOUR The new personalities are used to deal with different social situations the original personality can’t deal with A single person has more than 1 distinctive personality MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER New personalities often develop as a reaction to abuse or trauma a person has suffered Often stems from events that happen in early childhood

  11. Joanne Woodward got an Oscar for the film of the case study – The Three Faces of Eve (1957) THIGPEN & CLECKLEY (1954) • “Eve White”, American housewife (25) treated for amnesia/depression using hypnosis • New personality appears! “Hello doc!” • Eve Black is EW’s opposite: fun-loving, sexy, destructive, amoral • Scores differently on psychometric & projective tests… different handwriting! • Later, 3rd personality (Jane) emerges • Doctors try to persuade EW & EB to “merge” with healthier Jane

  12. Abnormal Psychology 1 • What is “madness”? • Before we can cure it, can we even define it? • In the UK, 1 in 6 adults is affected by mental distress at any one time • Anxiety & depression affect 9% of adults each year • Diagnoses are set out in DSM-IV (in USA) or ICD (in UK and elsewhere)

  13. EXPLANATIONS OF BEHAVIOUR For example; to diagnose schizophrenia people must show 2 or more symptoms for 6 months Diagnosis based on medical model PSYCHIATRIC DIAGNOSIS OF INSANITY Different classification systems are used such as the DSM-IV allowing symptoms to be checked Mental illness viewed in the same way as other medical illnesses

  14. Schizophrenia 1 • NOT the same as multiple personality disorder • Means “shattered mind” • Many different symptoms, not all sufferers have them all: • Delusions • Hallucinations/hearing voices • Inappropriate emotions • Involuntary movements • No biological test for schizophrenia – only self-reports

  15. Schizophrenia 2 • Around 1% of population will suffer from schizophrenia • Between 2-4 in 1000 in any year • Similar for men/women – shows in late teens for men, but mid-thirties for women • Treated with anti-psychotic drugs… • … but they have side-effects (tremors, facial tics, etc)

  16. Abnormality 2 • Thomas Szasz (1960) wrote about the “myth of mental illness” • No such thing as “mental illness” • Illnesses have a biological defect and produce physical symptoms • Madness is unacceptable beliefs or problems in living! • Argues blaming it on “illness” like blaming on witches in 17th century

  17. Hearing Voices • Side effect of certain drugs (LSD, mescaline) • Commonly reported by bereaved people • Joan of Arc heard voices from age 12 – told her to wage war on the English! • English decided not God but the Devil – they burnt her • Voices often disturbing, but can be comforting or inspirational

  18. ROSENHAN (1973) • David Rosenhan wanted to investigate if experts can diagnose mental illness • Sent 8 “pseudopatients” into mental hospitals saying they heard voices • All admitted with schizophrenia • How long would it take to get out? • Average 19 days • Staff interpreted ordinary behaviour as evidence of madness • STICKY LABELING

  19. Addiction 1 • Is there an “addictive personality”? • How do addicts differ from normal (non-addicted) people? • BIOLOGICAL EXPLANATION • “Pleasure centres” in the brain • Genetic component? • Gene DRD2 appears in 42% of people with alcoholism • Also found in 25% of general population • May be a genetic link – but needs more explanation than this

  20. Addiction 2 • BEHAVIOURAL EXPLANATION • We become addicted to behaviours, not just to substances • EG shopping, gambling, sex, work, fitness, World of Warcraft • SALIENCE – how important it is • EUPHORIA – pleasurable • TOLERANCE & WITHDRAWAL • CONFLICT & RELAPSE

  21. Heuristics & Biases • Heuristics are “rules of thumb” that help us in our thinking • Cognitive strategies for solving problems • Willem Wagenaar proposed 16 heuristics, including: • ILLUSION OF CONTROL • Having “lucky numbers”, a “favourite” slot machine • FLEXIBLE ATTRIBUTIONS • Losses are “near misses”, successes due to own skill – good for self-esteem • FIX ON ABSOLUTE FREQUENCY • Count total winnings, not proportion of money spent

  22. GRIFFITHS (1994) • Explore thought processes of gamblers • 30 regular gamblers (RGs), 30 NRGs, recruited through adverts or personal contact • Given £3 stake on a fruit machine • Half asked to verbalise their thoughts • RGs played more games, lost more when they verbalised and made more irrational verbalisations • RGs believed own skill was factor in winning • Suggests cognitive therapy for gambling addicts

  23. EXPLANATIONS OF BEHAVIOUR Different life experiences cause people to develop different patterns of addictive behaviour Any harmful or obsessive behaviour ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOUR For example drinking, gambling or buying shoes, the addiction will depend on the individual Faulty thinking patterns cause people to produce addictive behaviours

  24. Individual Differences Approach • Focuses on the differences between people (rather than things we might have in common). • There are differences between the people of any group, in terms of their personal qualities, the ways in which they respond to situations, their behaviour and so on. Examining these differences is what is most revealing. • Assumes what makes us individual makes us behave as individuals e.g. intelligence and personality, but could also be through abnormality (such as mental disorders), gender and race. • Other research has tried to categorise & identify different types of abnormality. • Individual differences are measured using psychometric tests e.g. IQ/personality tests.

  25. Strengths • Provides useful explanations for human behaviour by investigating individual cases. • Some of the explanations provided can be considered as useful in improving the experiences of people with mental health problems • Important individual differences tends to be over looked by other approaches. • The easy analysis of the quantitative data psychometric tests produce lead to the identification of the differences between people.

  26. Weaknesses • It is difficult to make generalisations from research focusing on an individual (case study). • There is a danger of labelling people & perhaps encouraging discrimination. • Research often carried out on limited samples from one culture.

  27. Generalisations • If you study unusual or extraordinary people, can you GENERALISE the results to others? • Is Eve White/Black typical of MPD (multiple personality disorder) sufferers? • Can you generalise from research on schizophrenia to ALL mental illness? • What do fruit machine addicts tell you about other sorts of gamblers? Or other sorts of addicts? • WHAT ABOUT ETHNOCENTRISM? • Talking to the dead is a coping strategy among West Indians – often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia by white doctors • Black people are 5% of UK population, but 25% of psychiatric patients are black…